June 26, 2010
The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Princess Addie and Princess Meryl may be sisters but the two are almost opposites. Fair Meryl wants nothing more than adventure, practicing sword play whenever she has the chance. Darker Addie would rather sit quietly and compose another artful piece of needlework, combining color and story.
But then disaster strikes, threatening Meryl’s life. The wait for the King’s return, hoping he will bring answers. Instead he brings resignation, prepared to await his daughter’s death.
Addie agonizes — she knows Meryl would face any dangers to save her life, is she not willing to do the same for her sister. So fearful Addie disguises herself and flees into the countryside to find the help they need. Bravery and magic, love and determination bring her to the answer so many so many have sought for so long.
In many ways, this tale is typical high fantasy — an epic journey means that a youthful protagonist must leave the comfort of the palace to face monsters of various kinds. Magic can help but magic alone is not the answer. A shy young woman must find the bravery to love herself, love others and even find respect for an age-old enemy.
Levine’s story doesn’t rely on fantasy conventions to keep the reader enthralled. She delivers a fully developed plot with well-rounded characters and a carefully considered world complete with history and folklore — no more or less true than our own.
The reading level for this middle-grade novel is low enough to aid a reluctant reader while the characters and story are advanced enough not to insult this reader by delivering childish fair. Though this story has humorous elements throughout, it is slightly more serious than Ella Enchanted but a rewarding princess story none-the-less. Fans of the Newbery Honor Novel (Ella Enchanted) would do well to pick this one up too.A good choice for a young fantasy lover but probably better for girls than boys.