I had a hard time getting into A Tale of Two Castles. I’m not sure what it is--I LOVE Levine’s books, in that I will gladly devour anything she releases, but this one just did not work for me for some reason. The writing seemed kind of jumbled at times, more focused on rushing through scenes so we could get more details on the setting. At times it honestly felt like more an exercise in world building than it did an actual fully realized novel. In the beginning the book throws a lot of terms and information at you and expects you to catch on quickly and follow along without trouble. I tend to prefer a book that slowly eases me into the world and introduces new concepts one at a time, not all at once. The world is very clearly realized, however, and once again Levine does a great job at creating a fantastical world. I did like some of the characters. Elodie was cute, though not Levine’s best heroine, and I was a little interested in her relationship with the dragon Meenore, but there wasn’t as much focus on that once Elodie gets to the ogre’s castle. The constant wondering and joking about whether or not Meenore was a male or female got old fast, though, as did the countless capitalized ITs in reference to Meenore. In the end, does Meenore’s sex really matter? Elodie’s reluctance and slowly building trust with the dragon was nice, and I did like how Meenore was a detective of sorts. It’s not every day you read about a dragon that’s a detective on the side. I think the character I liked most was Renn, actually, the daughter of the king that lives in the other castle and who is betrothed to the ogre. She was fun to read about, and I instantly latched on to her voice and personality. Also of note was how Elodie’s story ended. It was a good ending for her, I thought, and I do like how the story focuses more on her friendships with various people rather than a romantic relationship. I also could have never guessed the villain, though there were a few hints along the way that I missed. All in all I don’t think this was Levine’s best work, and I’m truly sorry that I don’t think higher of it. It’s kind of forgettable, really. There was nothing that really stuck out to me as being her usual greatness. It’s charming at times, and I’m sure younger fans will enjoy it, but I think others should go for her retelling of Snow White, Ever, or the bind up of all her fantastic Princess Tales. ARC received from NetGalley.