Goodreads: A True Princess
Summary: Twelve-year-old Lilia runs away from home in order to discover her birth family, but finds she cannot outrun her foster sister and brother, Karina and Kai. Together the three set out on a dangerous journey to the north, the place from which they believe Lilian came. On the way, however, Kai falls under the spell of the Elf King’s daughter. His sisters can save him only if they recover a magical jewel hidden away in a castle. Unfortunately, another mystery awaits them there—the secret of the test that will determine a true princess and the bride to the kingdom’s heir. A retelling of “The Princess and the Pea.”
Review: Zahler’s story tends toward the predictable, but that in no way ruins her tale. The book has the air of being an original fairy tale with its familiar characters, familiar actions, familiar endings—everything the reader could possibly want. It makes the story feel comfortable. Best of all, it makes the story feel true—good triumphs, evil defeats itself, and happily-ever-after does sometimes occur. The book just makes you want to curl up with it so you can lose yourself to an enchanted world.
The story works so well in part due to its characters. They are, in short, likable. Although her foster mother does not think well of Lilia, the girl proves brave, resourceful, and caring. She is also human, however, with an unfortunate sense of curiosity and a tendency to speak before thinking. Her sister Karina, meanwhile, illustrates that a girl does not have to choose between femininity and strength. She acts rather like a mother figure to Lilia, exercising prudence and restraint, but also shows her girlish side. Kai completes the trio with his sense of responsibility for his sisters and his gentle heart.
The entire book resonates with the theme that having a good heart and being a good person comprise the ingredients truly necessary to make someone royal—not birth or breeding or even the ability to paint miniatures. The chapter titles humorously hint at this message as each one dictates a “rule” girls must follow to prove themselves princesses. Readers, however, instinctively recognize that all three protagonists have shown themselves worthy to be royalty even as they contradict each instruction. The subtle irony prevents from the message from seeing preachy even if it is overt.
Anyone who enjoys a retold fairy tale, even a simple one, should give A True Princess a chance. In it, Zahler creates a delightful world populated with pleasant characters and invites her readers to remember that convoluted stories are not necessarily better stories.
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