Goodreads: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre
Series: The Two Princesses of Bamarre 0.5
Published: May 2, 2017
Perry has believed her entire life that she is one of the Lakti, a fearless and proud people who value military strength and glory in war. Then she learns that she is really one of the Bamarre, the people who now serve the Lakti. A fairy appears to Perry informing her that she must free her people. But can Perry leave all she has ever known and join a people she has always thought inferior?
Review (with Spoiilers Galore!)
Like Briana, I have always considered The Two Princesses of Bamarre my favorite Gail Carson Levine book. So I awaited the release of the prequel with great excitement. However, though I enjoyed the book, I could not help but laugh a little at the story. It simply makes no sense!
This is a middle-grade, so apparently Levine wants to keep the violence to a minimum even though the Lakti are at war and Perry wants to start a Bamarre revolt. I do not agree that middle school children cannot handle pain or sadness in their stories–I am sure many experience it in their own lives. Authors such as N. D. Wilson have written stories that balance the reality of balance with the knowledge that they are writing for children. However, Levine follows the strategy of Jessica Day George (see Tuesdays in the Castle) by having her revolt start out small, with actions that are more akin to pranks than anything else. Too much salt in the porridge. Sewing a dress too tight. Only in one village, mind you, not even the entire country. But the protagonists hope that they can get other villages to pull some pranks, too.
In time, these pranks grow more serious. Some Bamarre begin, for instance, to pull up the crops instead of the weeds (no word on whether that will cause the Bamarre to starve, too). By the end, houses are being burned. However, the end goal of all these measures is also a little…unrealistic. The Bamarre, tired of being enslaved in their own country, wish for permission to go to the country their Lakti overlords left. Because of the monsters. No, no Bamarre can fight these. The enslaved Bamarre are hardly trained to be warriors. But will that stop them from dreaming of freedom amongst the ogres and dragons? No. Does the knowledge that a handful of trained warriors had two deaths in their party and saw just about everyone else wounded in the space of a few hours, when they dared to cross into monster territory give any of the Bamarre pause? No again.
And why should it, really? They’re being lead by a fifteen-year-old stronger and faster than anyone else. She can shoot, fight with a sword, do anything you want her to, it would seem. At one point she even possesses four magical items! And her sister can chop off an ogre’s head with no training at all! And her ten-year-old brother is just mowing monsters down! He has no weapons training, either, unless he got a few weeks’ once he was drafted into the Lakti army. I suppose if an untrained woman, a teenager, and a child can fight monsters with such ease, the rest of the Bamarre will be fine fighting monsters with no weapons?
The rest of the ending is just as bizarre. The Lakti lose two monarchs in one day, with only a handful of witnesses, only two of whom who will presumably count as witnesses at all–the new monarch and a knight. No one questions this, just as no one questions that the new princess ran away from home to live with monsters after being imprisoned for reasons that were never explained. No one questions the new princess wanting to leave her throne to go back to live with monsters. Lead by a ten-year-old and a child who is supposed to be king. (It’s unclear if he’s going to rule or if someone will just declare themselves regent or what.) In short, the politics are messy and confused, and I think Levine is just hoping middle school children won’t question it.
However, if you are willing to overlook how strange the plot is, the story really is very engrossing. I read the book in one day, eager to learn how things would turn out and eager to learn more about the past of a country that always enchanted me. Seeing characters and items mentioned in The Two Princesses of Bamarre was also fun.
In the end, however, I had to wonder why, if this was the story of Perry (and a little bit of her sister), the book ends with a celebratory poem in honor of Drualt. It feels like the women are already being written out of history. With a poem they made up themselves! Drualt may be important to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, but that doesn’t meant that Perry’s fight should be overshadowed by Drualt’s future fame, all for the fun of an allusion.
I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It’s entertaining and fun and the characters are delightful. I want to go back to Bamarre again in another story. But I do have to remember that sometimes middle-grade authors don’t seem overly concerned with the logic of politics!