My (unintentional) theme for Once Upon a Time this year seems to be rereads of long-ago books I’ve largely forgotten…and today is another one, The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. Levine wrote the particularly excellent Ella Enchanted (review), and also has a wonderful blog with writing advice.
The two princesses of this title are Addie, who is afraid of everything, and Meryl, who dreams of adventure. When Meryl falls fatally ill, Addie has to find her courage to set out adventuring in search of a cure. Fighting ogres, spectres and a quite alarming dragon, and with some help from a very nice magician named Rhys, Addie learns more about her kingdom, and about herself.
The plot is somewhat episodic, and on the whole a pretty straight-forward quest. The strengths of the book are more in the characters and the depiction of magic. Bamarre is largely over-run by different magical threats, and there are some very interesting ways that magic is created. Spectres might be the creepiest, as they can appear in anyone’s form. Dragons are creepy in their own way, though, at least the one Addie meets–she genuinely loves her victims, keeping them around for company, and mourns them once they’re dead…but all the time considers it inevitable that at some point she’ll become angry and kill them. Very odd!
Magicians are quite odd too, as they’re “born” when lightning strikes marble. They seem to be mostly human though (and can even intermarry), except they have a tendency to float. One of my favorite details may be when Rhys admits that he has trouble keeping his feet firmly planted, so he usually hovers a hairsbreadth above the ground.
Addie’s physical journey is pretty straight-forward (and occasionally a bit implausible) but her internal journey is more profound. I think Levine portrays very nicely her growth and finding of her own strength, without losing who she was.
This was a fun and pretty quick reread. If you haven’t read Ella Enchanted, read it–not because there’s any connection to this book but just because I think it’s Levine’s best. But if you’ve already read Ella (seeing the movie does not count) and liked it, then Two Princesses is another good one as well.
Author’s site: http://gailcarsonlevine.com/
Buy it here: The Two Princesses of Bamarre