Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

I'm the King of the Castle

Rate this book
Discover a chilling twentieth century classic, delving into the dark and complex heart of childhood

'Some people are coming here today, now you will have a companion.'

But young Edmund Hooper doesn't want anyone else in Warings, the rambling Victorian house he shares with his widowed father. Nevertheless Charles Kingshaw and his mother are soon installed and Edmund sets about persecuting his fearful new playmate.

From the dusty back rooms of Warings through the gloomy labyrinth of Hang Wood to the very top of Leydell Castle, Edmund pursues Charles, the balance of power slipping back and forth between bully and victim. With their parents oblivious, the situation speeds towards a crisis...

Darkly claustrophobic and morally ambiguous, Susan Hill weaves a classic tale of cruelty, power, and the dangerous games we play as children.

'A brilliant tour de force' Guardian

'Equalled for poignancy and horror only in Lord of the Flies' Sunday Telegraph

'Delves beneath the surface of complex young minds, exposing not only their vulnerabilty and tenderness, their cruelty and malevolence, but also how parents end up turning a blind eye to their pain' Anita Sethi

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author


3 books

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
645 (19%)
4 stars
1,108 (33%)
3 stars
949 (28%)
2 stars
379 (11%)
1 star
214 (6%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 354 reviews
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book563 followers
October 23, 2022
He knew that, quite simply, he hated Hooper now. He had never hated anyone before, and the taste was very strong in his mouth, he was astounded by the strength of it.

What happens when you are tortured unrelentingly? What happens when lies are pressed against you and the liar is the one believed? What happens when you feel you are trapped inside a situation from which you feel there is no escape, a torment that will last forever, or at least as long as you do? Now imagine you are only eleven, with limited options and no sense that you will ever have control of your own life.

This book was downright painful to read. I almost gave it up mid-way because the tension it raised in me was overpowering. On the surface it seems almost a mundane plot line. Two boys are forced together by their parents, one is a selfish, cruel child, who delivers a note on the first day to the newcomer that says, “I do not want you here.” The adults, for their own reasons, want to be together, so they refuse to see or admit that something is awry. The second child is a sacrifice to their blindness, the first child’s cruelties, and the totally loveless and unprotected world he has been introduced to. The story is told from the viewpoint of the tortured child, and therein lies the reason it is not mundane.

The book is awesome; the book is frightening; the book is unsettling, but then the book was written by Susan Hill, so such should be expected.

Profile Image for M.J. Moore.
Author 9 books13 followers
February 3, 2012
Wow; that was exhausting! I don't mean that it was a mentally tiring book to read; just that it was emotionally over-powering. Although things are pretty damn bleak for him from the start, what tore me apart was the way young Charles Kingshaw, the lead character, was given little morsels of hope all the way through, only to have them unceremoniously ripped away from him every time, by Hooper, his bully cum step brother; and by the adults in his life, who were so concerned with their own happiness that they blatantly ignored the torture that was going on right under their noses. Susan Hill has written a masterful novel, with extremely well drawn out characters and a gripping story more tightly and tensely woven than anything I have ever read. I dreaded each turn of the page, just as poor Charles dreaded the dawning of each new day in his new 'home,' fearful of whatever injustice lay in store next. The ending angered me so much that I threw the book onto my front lawn, but that isn't to say it was a bad ending - quite the opposite; it was perfect. From the moment Charles Kingshaw stepped out onto the driveway at Warings (the Hooper family home), his destiny was set, and the fulfilment of that destiny brought me to tears. Brilliantly written.
Profile Image for Maria.
26 reviews40 followers
May 17, 2013
I had to read this book for English class, and from page one I was bitter about having to do so. Having been stuck with a 'Lord of the Flies' wannabe instead of the glorious Great Gatsby which was oh-so conveniently pushed off the reading list just that year, I moped about and only got around to finishing this book today, half a year after it was assigned to us - a record, I think, for a book that takes all of maybe 3 to 5 hours to read.

I can now say, with no reservations whatsoever, that I absolutely hated it. If I ever see this book again, I am hurling it over the nearest cliff, crossing my fingers, and hoping to all that is good and mighty that it lands in the deepest pits of Tartarus (or else burns in the River Styx...that would be good too).

Superlative aside, I swear that even if this book just so happens to be innocuously located somewhere in my proximity, it, the window and the ground below will have the most velocious anthropomorphic love affair in the history of ever, to be forever contemplated for its profundity by absurdists and surrealists alike.

Ceci n'est pas un livre.
C'est la merde.
Profile Image for Maria Lago.
450 reviews103 followers
November 22, 2022
Psychologically complex and well paced, but never manages to deliver, and it ends with a dull downer... Or maybe I just hate children.
Profile Image for Annikin.
104 reviews22 followers
October 9, 2012
If you'd like to read about two stupid brats bickering for 200 hundred pages, this is your book. It was not creepy in the way that I hoped it would be, just annoying. The parents were two of the most idiotic characters I've had to read about in a while. Their sheer ignorance and blindness to Charles' condition made me want to shoot myself in the face.
September 27, 2011
I had to study this for my GCSE English a while ago... This is a horrific story. Why anyone would want to read about developing torment and isolation for an entire story, I have no idea. I recall nothing pleasant about this story, HOWEVER it was written well with interesting symbolism throughout the book, and I find this upsetting, even frustrating(?) that the author should have put such fabulous talent and effort into creating something so dark and painful.
Profile Image for Gayatri.
7 reviews13 followers
April 9, 2013
Ok guys, after reading your comments on my initial rating of 4 stars I agree. I can't really rate something on the premise of how good the writing is, if I absolutely and truly hated the characters. I mean I stand by what I said earlier the writing is good, except the bit about the crow I mean since when to crows chase people across fields? It's completely absurd. But I absolutely despised Mrs Helena Kingshaw, what is wrong with her? She puts hooper (who by the way is a cowardly, whining...ugh) over her own son, who is obviously traumatized and distraught. And what for? BECAUSE SHE WANTS MR HOOPER. She is horrible mother and obviously acting like a twelve year old. I mean that kid is bullying, no, terrorizing your son and you do nothing about it? Also what's up with her at the end? Her son is lying dead in a pond and she comforts the one who did that to him? That's just sick. I mean sure she didn't really know about the conflict between them because of her own desperate agenda, but still, wouldn't she be weeping and grieving her son rather that comforting the boy who sees the body and then smiles to himself? Aaaagh. Ok rant over. Anyways the point is that yes it is good writing, I wouldn't hate Mrs Kingshaw if it wasn't, but you guys are right I completely hated reading it. I kinda tried to accept it since we have to deal with it till next year, but yes I hated it. So I am downgrading my review to 2 stars
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anne.
330 reviews101 followers
August 22, 2015
Creepy. Disturbing. Emotionally exhausting.

But in my opinion, I'm the King of the Castle is one of the most well-written novels out there. It seems wrong to say that this is one of my favorite without me appearing to be someone twisted and all that, but let me tell you: this is probably one of the most interesting books that I've read for ages.

This should be more popular, and this definitely shouldn't be priced at 10 pesos (though of course I am not complaining about that part). I will admit, I bought this because of two reasons: (1) the unbelievably cheap price, and (2) because of the cover. I'm a huge fan of impressionist/ post-impressionist art, in case you don't know. And indeed, the painting turned out to be a work of Van Gogh. Anyway, if there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that I'm thankful I bought this one.

It sure as hell was creepy. At first I thought it was a bit boring. Plus, the writing style of Susan Hill was simple and direct; she didn't bother with the flower descriptions (which was a drastic change from the novel I read previously, Paradise County). But soon, I was introduced to the character of Edward Hooper, shocked at his bluntness, shocked at the way his mind worked, given his age. In the beginning I could almost sympathize with him, I sort of understood his sentiments, and the fact that he really didn't want anyone to come to Warings.

However, when Kingshaw's point-of-view was shown, it became different. Kingshaw's fears were too real, too tangible, that I could feel everything that he was feeling--especially the way he was frightened about Hooper. The thing is, Kingshaw wasn't necessarily a coward; in fact, he was smart, and he didn't simply let Hooper have his own way. But heck, there was really something about Hooper.

The whole time, I was so tense and my heart was beating loudly, it was as though I were Kingshaw. Before I knew it, I had read at least 50 pages already without me noticing; that is how engrossed I was. I'm the King of the Castle is very hard to put down, once you've started to arrive at the suspenseful part.

But, I suppose, that's the weird thing. This isn't really a thriller, and the things that Hooper did to Kingshaw weren't really as violent as I was expecting, but they were undoubtedly very frightening. It's the simple things that made everything so creepy. Those seemingly trivial things were the objects of terror during our childhood. God. I could feel Kingshaw's fear reverberating through the pages. And I couldn't believe the thoughts running in my head while I was reading this: "I want Hooper to die," and "If I were you, Kingshaw, I'd just run away and starve myself until I die" and stuff like that.

The characters? They're so difficult to wield into words. But hell, they're realistic. I'm so amazed Susan Hill was able to weave her characters like this. Although I'd say this book isn't really for someone young, I'm the King of the Castle shows that there are some things that adults will never understand. This as exemplified in the way that Mr. Hooper and Mrs. Kingshaw didn't even have the slightest notion as to what was happening between the two children. The kind of fear Kingshaw felt, not everyone could fathom that.

Several instances I found it so strenuous to go on, knowing that Kingshaw would have to suffer again sooner or later. But it's the idea of "not knowing" that made me continue, urging me to read forward because I was desperate to know what would happen next. Who would triumph in the end?

Oh. And the ending. It was so tragic and sad, but I know that Susan Hill had no choice but to conclude the book that way. In the end, it would inevitably come to that, anyway. But goodness, I wasn't actually expecting her to actually to do it. It really makes me wonder how and why someone would make a novel like this--one that uses isolation as a central theme, one that uses children to symbolize several things, especially our fear.

It's hard to write a review for a book such as this one.

You really need to read it to understand.
Profile Image for ♥️Annete♥️4❤️books♥️.
465 reviews117 followers
December 26, 2019
A dark and gloomy book about a hunter and his prey,a tormentor and his victim.What we today call bullying is described accurately and poignantly in this book.Two little boys are fighting one another.The fearful Kingshaw and the sarcastic Hooper.Hooper does everything in his power to harm the other boy.He won't let him at peace and just when Kingshaw thinks he is finally winning this race,things turn upside down and the countdown begins only now things are getting really really wild.
Profile Image for Missy (myweereads).
501 reviews21 followers
December 20, 2018
“It is okay to climb as long as you are not afraid, because being afraid is what made you fall”

I’m The King Of The Castle by Susan Hill tells the story of young Charles Kingshaw who arrives at the old Victorian house of Edmund Hooper. He is to stay here with his mother sharing the house with Hooper and his father. Upon his arrival he isn’t welcomed by Hooper and soon finds out he isn’t wanted there either.

I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did especially after reading a lot of the recent reviews which didn’t speak highly of the book. For me this was a dark and realistic take on bullying amongst children and it showed how far it can go.

There were many realistic elements to this story which made it quite unsettling to read. The various moments of the torment of Kingshaw was all too real especially when he is given a very cold reception when he first arrives, unbeknownst to him it’s only the beginning of his hell. Hooper is an example of a bully which gets away with everything. The writing of Hill represented this well and the moments of creeping dread were felt intensely.

If there were characters which are annoying, these would have to be the parents of the children. They are so wrapped up in their own world they failed to see with open eyes what was happening around them. Granted they have life altering issues to deal with, but it’s a classic case of “my son can do no wrong”, it’s this kind of behaviour which resulted to the inevitable ending. That is what broke my heart. I kind of thought that’s where things were headed but it’s the realistic writing which makes it even more harrowing.

I have had this book on my tbr for far too long and I’m so glad I read it and would definitely recommend this as an interesting and disturbing read.
Profile Image for Bea.
8 reviews38 followers
October 9, 2013
I'm doing this book for my igcse and honestly this picture sums up me and everyone else's feeling for the entire book! :

and then are teacher asks us if we like the book and we all know if we say we don't she'll be pissed so all of us are just like:

GOD. this is my life.
Profile Image for Terri.
276 reviews
September 24, 2020
The lead character of this Susan Hill novel is a horrifying psychopath of a ten year old boy named Edmund Hooper. Early on, the reader realizes that he will grant no mercy on the boy his age who is his helpless victim. This novel left me quite anxious and filled with dread because I knew there would be a cruel reckoning at the end. The most frustrating part of the story was the oblivious nature of the self-absorbed adults which she captures perfectly. Four stars.
Profile Image for Berfin Kanat.
395 reviews156 followers
March 18, 2019
"İnsanlardan fayda yok diye düşündü, insanlar asla bana yardım edemezler. Sadece bazı yerler ve şeyler vardır. Orman var. Korkutucu ve güvenli."

İlk Susan Hill kitabım, çağdaş gotik edebiyatının başarılı örneklerinden biri. Gotik - gençlik hikayesi dengesinde ilerliyor gibi gözükse de gotiğe daha yatkın olduğunu söyleyebilirim. Türün ilgililerinin beğeneceğini düşünüyorum. Puan olarak 3 -4 arasında kaldım o yüzden 3,5 diyeceğim. :3
Profile Image for Adam Crossley.
61 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2015
What a truly disturbing and miserable book. At the same time it is certainly well written and evocative.
It accomplishes its goals in making readers confront the brutality of bullying and the darker parts of the human spirit.

This is an IGCSE coursebook in a class I am teaching, and I think it will work well as a text for analysis of language. However, I do wonder why the texts often considered literature force students to confront such grim views of human existence. Is that inherently of greater learning value? I'm still making up my own mind on regarding this and I'm thoroughly undecided.

Although it was not as well written as 'I'm the King of the Castle', I liked teaching 'Tuesday's with Morrie', for example, because of its uplifting, life affirming message. Is it so hard to find literature that lifts the spirit, rather than drags it through the muck?

Anyway, if you are looking for a book to make you squirm in discomfort, this one should do the trick.
Profile Image for Wendy.
542 reviews
October 10, 2008
This was the crappiest, most horrible, terrible, crappy, stupid, dumb, horrible, stupid, stupid, stupid book I have ever read.
Profile Image for Marnie.
105 reviews253 followers
March 6, 2015
Finished this a little while ago but I have no wifi due to moving house! Was O.K.
Profile Image for Lance.
244 reviews7 followers
September 19, 2016
I studied this book in secondary school (high school) in the UK. The teacher described it as a book "about bullying". I think if the book had been described to me a surreal quasi-supernatural fantasy set outside of the conventions of the contemporary world experiences by Western children today, I would not have found it so unpalatable. So, for anyone else who has experienced or been recommended this book as an example of a bullying story, I feel a kind of duty to explain just how unhelpful this book is for bullied teenagers.
The setting is preposterous. A castle in which there are very few child-friendly activities, lots of dangerous unsupervised locations, and almost no involvement from either boy's parent despite all four of them living in the same house. There is no sense of time or of wider community. Kingston arrives at the castle with the mentality of a near-suicidally depressed child going through the early stages of a mental breakdown. He has no friends, not even any memories of any friends, and seemingly nothing to look forwards to and almost no references to his former schooling or interactions with any children besides Hooper. I can identify with children who are bullied and have low self-esteem so find it extremely difficult to form new friendships or believe that they can make friends. However, Kingston also seems to lack any hobbies, interests, passions, or pleasure in life. He is gyrating ball of fear from page 1. It is deeply surprising that his mother appears almost oblivious to this, despite the fact that his behaviour and inner monologues are consistent with someone who needs urgent psychiatric help.
Kingston arrives at the castle and is stuck night and day with a bigger, more confident boy also weirdly referred to exclusively by surname. Kingston is terrified of Hooper. This made little sense to me as Hooper's odd pestering, a lot of which resulted in bizarre surreal "pranks" involving a taxidermy crow, struck me as the result of malevolent boredom. Hooper has nothing to do so he tried to scare Kingston. But why do neither parent step in and monitor Hooper's behaviour? Why don't they give him something to do? Why doesn't Hooper have any friends or interests of his own? He must have been doing something in the castle by himself before Kingston arrived. And the instances of bullying are so location-specific and phobia-based that these are extremely difficult to relate to, even for someone like me who has personally experienced being bullied at school. Hooper's behaviour wasn't like any school bully I've encountered, he acted like a sort of "Count Olaf" petty villain figure in a children's book. I've also volunteered in schools as an adult, and I found that the interaction between the two boys lacked the deep psychological harassment that children use to bully each other. Kingston's character was so mentally disturbed, that he would have interpreted a sneeze from Hooper as an assault on his sanity, and Hooper appears incredibly weird and isolated compared to some of the cruelly astute bullies that I have had to deal with in the playground.
The reason I'm writing the review is to moderate Hill's irresponsible evocation of suicide as Kingston's only possible escape from his torment. Kingston is extremely mentally unwell, this has been heightened by his relationship with Hooper but there are also signs of his poor mental health which do not relate to Hooper, and needs professional help. Suicide is not the only option for a child in this position. Every major city in the UK has psychiatric health services and support groups for children, everything is confidential and you can get the help you need. Equally, there are many internet forums as well as charity phone lines and support groups which can help young people who are being bullied. Kingston never tells anyone how he feels, not even his mother, and there is no one else in his life. Suicide is not self-empowerment to escape bullies. Telling people and seeking support is self-empowerment. Kingston's story is very sad, but in my opinion it glorifies suicide and casts this tragic act of self-harm as inevitable. But what I'm trying to say is that I've been in that position myself as a teenager and, with help and courage, I've been able to overcome it and have a rewarding life once I no longer had to see the bullies any more.
I hope this helps. And for any parents of children who they know or suspect of being bullied, please make sure you talk about this book with your child when they study it in school. I know it was very unsettling for me. And any teenagers out there who are being bullied - get help, you deserve it, you're awesome!
Profile Image for Aza.
37 reviews
October 1, 2019
"It is okay to climb as long as you are not afraid, because being afraid is what made you fall"

Oh Edmund, your naughtiness and jealousy and arrogance got the better of you.
Look at what you've done.
Profile Image for Loz.
736 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2011
It is well written, but the subject matter was too depressing for me. We had to study it in school, so I wouldn't choose to read a book like this anyway.
Profile Image for JoBerlin.
330 reviews39 followers
April 12, 2020
Susan Hill schreibt exzellent und kreiert eine bedrohliche Spannung, der man sich nicht entziehen kann. Pageturner der allerbesten Sorte.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,035 reviews56 followers
April 12, 2018
I picked this one up quite a while ago but got bored because the book was mostly just about two terrible little boys. I finally picked it back up and finished it. So, for the most part, I was following along with the story, not really knowing where it would go and not necessarily trying to figure out where it would end. I was going through the motions of the story which had a few bumps and turns. Basically, it was about a bully boy and another boy who comes to live in his house. I felt like the parents were just so damn frustrating, it really annoyed me that they kept ignoring what Kingshaw had to say and constantly sided with Cooper. That being said, I think the adults were more absorbed in their own turmoils to care too much about the kids. Anyway, the ending of this book threw me completely. It just was not something that I had anticipated so I was quite stunned. So, I feel like I was entertained by this book, but I wouldn't necessarily say that I really enjoyed it. Either way, I'm glad that I read it.
Profile Image for jessica h.
426 reviews
February 28, 2020
3.5 stars.
I found this rather dull at first. Felt next to nothing at all for the characters and didn’t feel all that compelled to read on and see where the story would go. It took me ages to read the first 100 or so pages for that reason. However, the suspense really started to build for me during the second half and I found myself pretty gripped, racing to finish it, despite suspecting I knew the ending, or at least had an inkling of it. I’d like to revisit this in the future and read it all in one go on a drizzly winter afternoon; in my humble opinion, the best way a novel like this should be consumed. For now though - a rather dark and twisted tale indeed!
Profile Image for Marcus.
570 reviews14 followers
July 20, 2022
Hard literary realism. The novel is at times disjointed but Hill does an excellent job in tapping into the fears and insecurity we have foisted on us during childhood. The nonsensical babble as children bicker in constant power plays, each selfish to their own needs and wants. The absolute powerlessness as we are blown from one predicament to the next. As the different experiences damage you for life and become neuroses and anxieties. All of this taking place at the whim of reckless adults who miss the important moments, misunderstand you and pursue their own damaged, selfish agendas as you flounder in confusion and abject misery. On the softer side Kingshaw is empathetic to the systematic suffering meted out against the farmed cows, calves, turkeys etc.
Profile Image for Sabine.
170 reviews
March 30, 2023
On the one hand, this was incredibly effective at showing what it set out to show, on the other hand, reading it was awful and painful and frustrating and I do rate based on enjoyment more than anything.
Profile Image for Skye MacDonald.
38 reviews
November 3, 2022
many mixed feelings about this book. It put me in a reading slump for a couple of weeks as I read a few pages a night.
Just 200 pages of a kid bullying another kid, quite exhausting and mentally draining to read. It did provoke very deep emotions within me, but there wasn't really any level of enjoyment or connection to the characters at all. Kingshaw, for example, while he gets bullied, isn't exactly lovable himself.
The parents' complete blindness/ lack of acknowledgement of everything going on just felt completely unrealistic and annoying.
I liked the tragic ending, and it was the vivid imagery and quite perfect descriptions of certain scenarios that kept me reading, even though it was up there as one of my least favourites of the year. Though I will still read Susan Hill as she is supreme at creepy writing- this just wasn't creepy, but rather, irritating and daft. I am using it for examples of well written characters in an s2 class, however!
Profile Image for Adam Black.
122 reviews7 followers
March 9, 2021
Susan Hill's I'm the King of the Castle gave me Lord of the Flies, Eden Lake, The Collector vibes, while reminding me very much of my childhood, stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a vindictive sibling.

It's an ugly, twisted little tale, that is never quite as impactful as you'd expect.

I did, however, like how the narration occasionally flipped from the children's astute perspectives, to various adult views, and how incredibly off the mark these always were.

In a nutshell:
Childhood can be lonely.
Children can be cruel.
Adults are idiots.
Resistance is futile.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 354 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.