The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Children's book review by Kimi McDiarmid
In a nutshell: A great adventure book about a fearful girl who must find courage to save her sister. These books and other books by Gail Carson Levine are good choices for girls who like adventure stories and girls who like fairy tales.
Review: Princess stories and adventure stories seem all the rage right now among preteen readers, and Gail Carson Levine delivers a great combination of the two in The Two Princesses of Bamarre. This book has a similar feel to Fairest, and readers who enjoyed Ella Enchanted or Fairest will also enjoy reading The Two Princesses of Bamarre.
Unlike Ella Enchanted, Two Princesses is not based on a fairy tale.
The protagonist, Princess Addie, is afraid of everything. She asks the castle sorcerer to cast a spell to banish spiders from her home. She hides when griffins fly over the castle. She wants nothing more than to stay home and embroider - and for her sister to stay with her.
But when the adventurous Meryl is struck by the only thing Addie had not been afraid of, the fatal Grey Death, she must face her (many) fears and go off on her own adventure to save her older sister and protector.
She has only her embroidery skills to fall back on, as, unlike her sister, she has not practiced sword fighting or plotted out ways to lead an army in battle against a dragon. However, she does have gifts from her mother and from her friends:
The story is well written and weaves a history of Bamarre in easily and nicely using Addie's favorite poem, the epic Drualt. Pieces of the poem and other poems provide clues for Addie's quest.
The plot itself will satisfy a reader's desire for adventure: there are sorcerers, dragons, fairies, dwarfs, and tricky prophetic spectres.
Addie must fight an ogre, trick a dragon, and will, somewhere along the way, fall in love. The entire time, there is the question of whether she will find the cure in time to save her sister. (Even in this, Levine avoids being obvious and has a bit of a surprise at the end).
The ending itself doesn't fit as seamlessly as I would expect from the author's other books, but it works.
The vocabulary and word usage in this book is comfortable and works well for 10 - 14 year olds. There are a few new ideas and concepts in the book, such as how the sorcerers are created.
The book is action filled and, among my students, was returned to me reluctantly: "Can I keep it for another week?" was asked of me more than once. Several of my students reread it while waiting for Fairest to come out.
This is one of Gail Carson Levine's more satisfying books. Many of her fairy tale based books: The Fairy's Mistake, the Fairy's Return, the Princess Tests - are enjoyable but are not full length novels. The longer length of her princess based fairy tale books: Ella Enchanted, Fairest, Ever - give the books a more solid feel.
The shorter lengths of the fairy tale books are good for slower or younger readers, however.
In general, The Two Princesses of Bamarre is a great book for girls; even those who say they don't really like to read have enjoyed this book once they started reading it.
Read more of Kimi's reviews.
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