Three teenagers meet up by chance on a day of deep snow at a deserted castle in a remote part of East Anglia. They are trespassing in the castle grounds in order to go sledging. The three main characters are all at odds with their families for various reasons. Emily, feisty and argumentative is simply bored. Simon comes from a large dysfunctional family. Marcus from a town some miles distant is imaginative and enthusiastic but has some strange and disturbing characteristics that suggest all is not what it seems with him. The three of them manage to get inside the castle and decide to spend a night there. They become drawn into its historical and ghostly past but in the morning they split up fractiously and return home. However, Emily and Simon discover that Marcus has not gone home and is continuing to camp out. When his father is spied lurking outside the grounds, they start to prepare the defences of the castle spurred on by Marcus's story that his father has beaten him up. The police arrive and a full-scale siege develops. Beginning as a backdrop to a winter game, the castle becomes ever more alive to the teenagers and the siege becomes an actuality. The final confrontation is very real. The interest is not only the strong plot of the castle but the playing off of the three participants against one another. In a final dramatic twist, Marcus is revealed as a fantasist and a liar; how will Emily who has developed a protective attachment to him respond to this?
Jonathan Stroud was born in Bedford in 1970. After studying English Literature at York University, he moved to London, where he worked as an editor in a publishing firm. He is the author of the best-selling BARTIMAEUS sequence, which is published in 35 languages and has sold 6 million copies worldwide, and also of four other novels: HEROES OF THE VALLEY, THE LAST SIEGE, THE LEAP and BURIED FIRE. Jonathan lives in Hertfordshire with his family.