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Review: A True Princess

A True Princess
Diane Zahler
Product Details: 
Reading Level: Middle Grades
Pages: 192
Publisher: Harper Collins (February 1, 2011)
ISBN: 0061825018
Source: ARC from publisher in exchange for an honest review

A True PrincessTwelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. In fact, she's terrible! She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Refusing to accept that dreadful fate, she decides to flee. With her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, beside her, Lilia heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .
As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.

There are several things in life that I find hard to resist: shoes, free books, and retellings of fairy tales. A True Princess (Diane Zahler) was a quaint retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Unlike the well-known fairy tale version, however, this retelling is packed full of adventure and “girl power."

The story begins when Lilia, the adventurous protagonist of the story, finds herself in a very difficult situation. She has to decide whether or not to run away from the only home and family she has ever known. If she stays, her stepmother will sell her to the local Miller. If she runs away, however, she will be on her own in a strange land without any protection. The decision may seem daunting to some, but Lilia does not falter from her choice: she will run away.

While on her way out of town, Lilia is met by her adopted brother and sister, Karina and Kai. The two siblings tracked Lilia easily using the family’s dog as their guide. Together, the three companions set out to find Lilia’s true parents. Unfortunately, their trip would not go as smoothly as they had planned. A close call with a group of robbers in Bitra Forest leaves the group lost in the Elf-King’s territory. Knowing the horrible danger they are in, they become even more distraught when Kai falls under the Elf-King’s daughter’s evil spell. Luckily, Lilia is a fast thinker. She makes a deal with the Elf-King, but he gives her only two weeks to carry out the bargain. Thus, Lilia and Karina find themselves posing as servants in the local castle while they desperately try to devise a plan to save Kai.

Keeping with the genre of fairy tale retellings, the remainder of the plot holds true to the story of “The Princess and the Pea.” However, there are a few twists in the new version. As the title hints, “a true princess” will be found; she’s just not what everyone expected. This retelling shows that a princess can come in any form. It’s very pleasing to find a strong female character for young readers. Lilia is confident, courageous, and loyal. All of her honorable traits become evident throughout the book, and develop to make her an enjoyable character. Also, the development of the characters is fantastic, and makes the reader imagine they are a third party in the conversations between Karina, Kai, and Lilia. Fans of fantasy and fairy tales will enjoy this novel.

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