it’s time for another installment of The Bookish Planet, the feature where we give a guided tour of settings seen in a lot of books. Today, the feature is The Castle. They are often found in Magical Forests, within fantasy kingdoms. The Castle is exciting, magnificent, sometimes crumbling, sometimes lavish. No matter which castle you end up in, something exciting will be going on.
Featured in: The Montmaray Journals, Snow Like Ashes, Song of the Lioness, Protector of the Small, Rose Daughter, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Shadow and Bone, Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Winner’s Kiss, The Queen of the Tearling, A Wicked Thing, The Orphan Queen, The Lost Crown, The Reluctant Heiress, The Crown’s Game, The Goose Girl, The Wrath and the Dawn, The Star Touched Queen.
Description: Where the castle is, there will be the royalty also. And royalty (or other nobles) come with a lot of extras: servants, fancy dogs, horses, thrones, murder, banquets, elaborate dresses, small economies, more servants, tapestries, war, treasuries, betrayal, injustice, love…all of those fun things. These things produce DRAMA and PLOT which make it an excellent place. Never a dull moment! But that’s not really the case. Sitting through court is quite boring. So are banquets. And speeches. Luckily, as a visitor, you will be able to skip some of these events. Spend the extra time exploring. With any luck, you’ll find a secret tunnel, paintings of ancestors, or clandestine meeting.
People: The people of the castle are obviously the most interesting part: without them, you’d just be living in a lump of stone. Social hiearchies are strict. If you’re not familiar with the culture, then you need to pay lots of attention to figure out the relaitonships. If you’re a diplomat or a visiting royal, you can probably go all over the palace. If you’re the cousin of Asma the cook’s assitant, keep your expectations low. Castles are physical manifestations of of inequality, so don’t expect any kind of fairness in how you’re treated, okay? But the people should be interesting. Look at how the servants kinteract with the nobles, and how they gossip about each other. It’s a fascinating study in primitive society obscured by the trappings of wealth.
History: Where the royals are, there will be unecessary bloodshed, long term trauma, and possibly emotional abuse. They’re all variation on a theme because that is what violence is, and history repeats. But this is a secret, okay? Let the rich people bother about that, okay, and then through them repeating the mistakes of thier ancestors and their ancestors, you can learn Deep and Important things about the cyclical nature of violence and get on with your ordinary life. (Unless you’re a noble, in which case, enjoy being responsible for other peoples deaths without being involved, and no there aren’t counselling services for you or anyone else, this is a war, but at least you have these diamonds, aren’t they nice). And also learn the personal histories and rivalries and so on, they’ll be useful later.
Hazards: Servants know most things, so stay on their good side. Any sort of gossip could ruin you forever. If you hang around too much, you might accidentally run into a plot and never be able to read (this is true for all locations feature on The Bookish Planet, but this one especially). There are often swords and suits of armour hanging around. Stay away from them. They may be cursed, or at the very least will probably be very sharp. Stay away from the dungeons, and, in general, try not to learn information you shouldn’t, because it increases your risk of becoming entangled with plot.
Where to Stay: Look, you’re in a castle. You’ll be staying in the castle. Maybe it’ll be a good place to stay. If you’re a higher class visitor, there’ll be servants to deal with all the stuff like chamberpots and candlesticks because modern plumbing and electricity is dumb (also you’re probaby in a medival fantasy land so it would be anachronistic), if not, you’ll have to share a stinky latrine with an unknowable number of other people. You might have to share a bed as well. Manage your accomadation expectations in accordance with your level of wealth relative to the owners of the castle.
have you ever visited a real castle? and what’s your favourite fictional one? let me know in the comments!