The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

The Princess CurseAfter a fall season full of innovative and original new fantasies for children comes a fairy tale retelling that is both original AND traditional.

The Princess Curse retells the traditional story The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but with a twist. The first wave of fairy tale retelling novels were pretty straight-forward: merely novel-length retellings of the fairy tale. The second wave contained heroines that were more strong and opinionated, but they often seemed all of a type — just modern women dropped into medieval settings with all their anachronistic ideas intact. The authors took pains to point out that their main characters weren’t “just” princesses, but they never gave us any examples of what else they were.

Reveka, of The Princess Curse, on the other hand, is very clear about who she is and what she wants. She was raised in a convent (while her father, a soldier, was fighting in various wars), and is now an herbalist’s apprentice. What she wants more than anything is to be an herbalist herself and to have her own herbary in a convent. Her needs and desires — and considerable skills! — tie directly into the action of the plot, and is the catalyst for several major revelations in this well-told story.

In addition to a compelling and believeable protagonist, Haskell gives us a very specific setting. The story is set in Sylvania, a fiction region of the real country Romania, and mentions Hungary and Transylvania. Many of the fantasy elements are derived from the Romanian language and folklore, and are worked into the dialogue and description seamlessly.

We all think we know the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, but really: what’s life like in the castle for those who aren’t royalty? How are the countries surrounding their kingdom reacting to the problem? How did the princesses end up in that magical predicament anyway? And who precisely is it that placed them under that enchantment? What does that mysterious person really want, and why? Reveka’s journey through her own story will give readers the answers to all these questions.

Posted by: Sarah

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