Pullman, Philip. Count Karlstein. Illustrated by Diana Bryan. Knopf, 1998. ISBN 0-679-89255-9. $18.99. 243 pp. A 6-9 FI Reviewed by Rachel Wadham In nineteenth-century Switzerland, the evil Count Karlstein plans to sacrifice his two young nieces, Charlotte and Lucy, to fulfill his villainous blood pact with Zamiel the Demon Huntsman. When the girls' faithful servant, Hildi Kelmar, and their former teacher, Miss Augusta Davenport, discover the Count's plot, it is up to them and a host of other enchanting characters to foil his wicked plans. Count Karlstein is a delightful gothic melodrama that is eminently suitable for middle-grade readers. It is far from being as intense as Pullman's Dark Materials or the Sally Lockhart series. With alternate chapters told from the viewpoints of various characters, this novel is stylistically rich and will appeal to all genders even though the main characters are girls. The plot's Dickensian twists and multiple subplots may be daunting to some readers, but everything works out beautifully in the end. First published in the United States sixteen years after its debut in Britain, this novel will be a fresh and exciting addition to any collection. Librarians and teachers will find this book a wonderful way to steer young readers away from R.L. Stine-type books.
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