The Enchanted Castle, book one in the Shioni of Sheba series by Marc Secchia and gives it 5 claws!
My review: "What a fantastically rendered story with the weight of legend behind it! I loved the character of Shioni and empathized with her struggles and cheered her bravery. I've been fascinated with African legends for many years but now I'm eager to learn more about Ethiopia and very anxious to read the rest of Shioni's adventures! Each character in this book is living and breathing, the setting realistically drawn with all 5 senses, and the suspense and danger is enough to stop your breath and make your heart beat faster without being too scary for younger readers. Bravo, Mr. Secchia!"