Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Great Escape

What is better than a porch swing on an afternoon in June, a frosty pitcher of lemonade at hand, and a great book to escape into?

A TRUE PRINCESS by Diane Zahler, Harper, 2011

There are re-told fairy tales and re-imagined ones. This one is both plus a delightful “what if” creation from an author who knows how to make a good story even better.

Do you remember those lumpy mattresses at summer camp? You probably thought about the “Princess and the Pea” and were certain you were of royal blood. In the Zahler version of the tale, the candidates for bride had obviously not heard the lumpy mattress story, so they slept, even snored away the night and left the next day in tears, having no idea why the Prince rejected them.

However, flash back to long before this mandatory slumber party: a sleeping toddler in a basket is fished out of an icy, swiftly flowing river. The fisherman who plucks her from this predicament takes her home where ten years pass in relative calm. The fisherman’s wife is a surly sort, not caring for the fisherman’s two motherless children and certainly not happy with another mouth to feed. She makes a servant of the newcomer, called Lilia, the little girl with lilac eyes.

Not allowed to eat at the same table or sleep in the farmhouse with the family, Lilia is not a superior servant. Far from it. Her daydreams cost her dearly. Broken dishes. Lumpy porridge. When she hears the fisherman’s wife scheming to sell her to the wretched miller to become his servant, she gathers her wits and not much else and runs away. What she didn’t expect is that the fisherman’s own two children, Kai, who has become Lilia’s best friend, and his sister, Karina, would follow her.

The three unite and travel deep into the dark woods, only to find themselves lost in the sinister Bitra Forest and facing the evil Elf King. Throughout the spells, threats of spells, and un-raveling of spells, runs the thread of Lilia’s lineage. Who is she? Who put her in the basket and set her adrift? Someone who was saving her or someone bent on getting rid of her?

Kai falls under the spell of the Elf King’s daughter and the only way Lilia can save him is to find a jewel hidden in a castle and....the castle is the scene of many comings and goings of hopeful young women, desirous of becoming the prince’s bride. Now we’re getting to the lumpy mattress.

I’m going to stop here and say no more. You wouldn’t hear me anyway. You are already too deeply held in the spell of a really good book, the only kind a girl wants on a warm summer afternoon, lemonade at hand.

Diane Zahler is also the author of The Thirteenth Princess blogged here which expanded on the fairly tale the "The Dancing Princesses." You can visit her

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