Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Wide-Awake Princess

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. I saw it at the bookstore and, after reading the back, instantly added the book to my to-read list. It took me a while to get to it, unfortunately. But, I finally did and what a treat! The book is written by the charming E.D. Baker of The Frog Princess fame. I always like a good take on the Brier Rose tale and this one was fantastic.

The story is as follows, Princess Annabelle (Annie) is gifted with a resistance to magic on her christening day. This gift forces Annie to grow up in a rather lonesome way as most people around are afraid to be near her for fearing of losing their magically bestowed beauty. But, when Annie's sister, Princess Gwen pricks her finger and brings the whole castle to an enchanted sleep, it's up to Annie to save the day. As she travels with a guard, Liam, to find the prince to break the spell, Annie meets a whole cast of familiar characters and magical folk.

I loved the premise of this book. The idea of a magic-resistant adventuress traveling through a land packed with magic was very entertaining. And I thoroughly enjoyed Baker's twist on old tales, such as Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and the Princess and the Pea. I also really appreciated the inclusion of Snow White and Rose Red, which is, to my mind, a sadly neglected fairy tale.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun romp through fairy tales. Baker's humor and masterful storytelling bring a fresh and charming take on a well known tale.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Thirteenth Princess

Is it appropriate to just hop right into a review after taking a break for almost a year? Eh, sure.
I am lucky because my library has a home delivery system meaning I can go onto their web catalog, order a gazillion books, and then just, well, live life as the books come rolling in (more like tossed on to my front porch, but you get the idea). This was a book I had ordered quite a while back and just recently received it - a classic fairy tale and very engrossing read.

The Thirteenth Princess is a retelling of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" only in this tale, there were actually thirteen princesses. The father was so angered at never having had a son, he banishes the thirteenth princess, Zita, to the servants' quarters never wanting to hear of her again. Since the poor mother had died at childbirth, there was no one to plead Zita's case so she grows up in the busy and rough life of servanthood while her sisters live the luxurious princess life. Everything seems fine - Zita is accepted secretly by her princess sisters and her father never knows - until it comes time for the older sisters to be wed. Then they seem to have terribly bad luck beginning with an inability to speak to any suitor and subsequently to where daughters begin to get ill; growing more weak and overtired every day. Zita and her friend Breckin, the stableboy, must find a cure to what ails the sisters or the worst will happen!

I've read many, many fairy tale retellings. This one stood out because of its classic fairy tale style. The king is the perfect cold, harsh, heartbroken king, the cook the perfect jolly, rolling-pin-wielding cook, the princesses all perfect, gentle and golden-haired, etc. Although I love a good ironic (The Runaway Princess), humorous (Goose Chase), philosophical (Princess Ben) or historic (The Perilous Gard) twist, a nice, old-fashioned, maybe even a bit predictable fairy tale is enjoyable and, because of the large amount of "different take" stories, refreshing. And, despite the fact that the characters fit perfectly into their stereotypes, it took me quite a while to actually figure out who was causing all the problems. Which, when you read as many children's fantasy books as we do, is a remarkable feat.

I recommend this book for those days when you long for a classic fairy tale where the princes are handsome, the stableboys are freckled, the witches bake gingerbread and the bad guy dies in the end. Curl up with a cup of Earl Grey and some shortbread and dig into The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler.