Books & Literature

Book Review: The Golden Tower, by Belinda Murrell

MIDDLE-GRADE: In her wildest dreams, Sophie never thought she might be kidnapped by a cat and taken to a world of flying horses and wonder – but also magic, mystery and danger!

An enchanting fantasy story glittered with inspiring messages.

After stumbling into the enchanted land of Tuscia, Sophie befriends sisters Isabella and Bia and accompanies them on their trek to the Golden Tower. Though Tuscia is filled with flying horses and charming landscapes, Sophie’s biggest concern is getting back home to her grandmother’s house in the English countryside. But when it becomes obvious that her new friends need her help, Sophie must find the courage within to save them. 

From the acclaimed author of the Lulu Bell and Pippa’s Island books comes The Golden Tower, a heart-warming adventure tale set in a Renaissance Italy-inspired fantasy land. The detailed world-building is one of the story’s greatest strengths as readers are immersed in a colourful universe that sticks long after the book ends. 

It’s obvious that Belinda Murrell has combined extensive research with imagination to craft such an entrancing setting. Many of the included details, from the language spoken by the characters to the customs they follow, are inspired by Italian culture, history, and folklore. The result is an original and curious world that is still somewhat familiar and easy to connect to. 

Most of the characters are warm and relatable with a decent amount of backstory for middle-grade fiction. Characters like Isabella, with her deep love for her sister, and Zita, working to provide for her family, are fleshed out enough to draw empathy from the reader. One of the most captivating characters is Isabella and Bia’s impressive Nonna, a wise and influential woman who seems to always be one step ahead of everybody else. Though she only appears at the beginning and end of the story, her sagacity and altruism leave a lasting impression. 

The protagonist Sophie is thoughtful and kind yet not perfect or two-dimensional. Despite following a cat into a marvellous fantasy realm, she is still easy for young readers to relate to because she faces real-world problems, such as bullying. As dyslexia and the insecurities that come with it make up part of Sophie’s story, she’s a fantastic role model and representative for a wide range of readers. 

Sophie and Nonna are just a few of the powerful and inspiring female characters that appear in Murrell’s latest novel. Female empowerment is one of the clear pillars of this story. The figure of the Bella Rossellana, the eldest daughter of the eldest daughter who has the ability to tame a pegasogives women in this world a chance to shine and female readers the chance to feel proud

On a surface level, The Golden Tower is an action-packed adventure story full of magical creatures and long-buried secrets. But weaved throughout are the kinds of messages that young readers can’t hear enough of: the importance of being brave, believing in yourself, and working together to conquer life’s biggest challenges.

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

Distributed by: Penguin Books
Release Date: 2 March 2021
RRP: $16.99

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