The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine

Goodreads: The Princess Test
Series: The Princess Tales

Summary: Lorelei is a blacksmith’s daughter who seems to be allergic to and sensitive to everything; mostly she is good at embroidery.  Prince Nicholas’s parents want him to marry, and they set up a ridiculous series of tests to find a true princess.  Nicholas thinks no one is likely to pass, and hopes if they do not, he will be allowed to marry Lorelei instead.  But then Lorelei shows up at the castle and is entered into the contests.  Unable to help her in any way, Nicholas prays she will be able to do the impossible: feel a pea under twenty feather mattresses.  A retelling of “The Princess and the Pea.”

Review: Levine’s story is delightfully fun, and as close to a “real” fairytale as retellings are likely to get.  All the stories in The Princess Tales story are short (able to be read in half an hour) and function on the same bases as the originals.  There is love at first sight, the good characters are generally pretty if not stunningly gorgeous, and it is perfectly obvious how everything will end.  In short, they are wonderful.

The Princess Test is a witty retelling of “The Princess and the Pea.”  King Humphrey is very fond of synonyms and enjoys stringing them together. Lorelei embroiders her family’s clothing with footstools instead of flowers.  And there is not just the pea test for the princesses to pass, but a series of similar ones that are equally absurd.  How many princesses will find a single stitch missing from a tapestry and from how far away?

In the end, Lorelei does demonstrate that she has compassion and will be a loving, not just a finicky queen.  This is a nice touch that helps the reader cheer for Lorelei for more than the simple reason that Nicholas wants her to win, and it is a good lesson for children that a good character is one of the most important qualities a ruler should have.

Published: 1999

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