Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Two Princesses of Bamarre (Gail Carson Levine)

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Gail Carson Levine
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: The daughters of King Lionel of Bamarre could not be more different. Elder Princess Meryl yearns for adventure, determined to challenge every last ogre, specter, gryphon, and dragon that plagues the kingdom. Princess Addie can't even confront a spider. Despite their differences, they love each other dearly... so when Meryl succumbs to the Gray Death, Addie can scarcely contain her terror. Nobody has ever survived the plague, even with the help of elven healers; it is said that the fairies might know a cure, but nobody has seen them in centuries. Determined to save her sister, timid Addie screws up her courage and sets forth on her own quest.

REVIEW: Not a perfect story, this nevertheless entertains. Addie makes an atypical hero, especially in a genre where women tend to be either fainting damsels in distress or tomboys chafing at society's constraints. She doesn't want to be brave, but fear of failure trumps her fear of adventure. Levine crafts a magical, if lightweight, fantasy kingdom, with just enough history and heft to it for a good adventure yarn. I particularly enjoyed her take on dragons, distinctly inhuman beings seemingly cursed by their own conflicting needs and instincts. The story itself moves at a fair pace, building up to a tense finale and an ending somewhere between happy and bittersweet. It kept me reading for a full afternoon, which is more than I can say for some grown-up stories I've read lately.

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Bright Shadow (Avi) - My Review
Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) - My Review
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede) - My Review

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