Monday, July 16, 2012
Arty -- The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
(Actually, I did read Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and the first volume of Ultimate Spider-man, but Angel had me severely depressed, what with the whole Jem thing [WHY IS HE IN LOVE WITH TESSA HE'S SO INTELLIGENT AND AWESOME OTHERWISE WHY JUST WHY], and I'm not qualified to judge comic books.)
Two Princesses starts out with, yes, two princesses. Princess Meryl is bold and adventurous - a fearless princess with great plans of great adventures. Princess Adelina, or Addie, is her sister's exact opposite, a girl afraid of everything; she embroiders beautifully, but relies on her sister to do everything else. In fact, she's made Meryl promise never to go adventuring until Addie is wed, and has someone else to look after her.
Meryl's plans include finding the cure for the Grey Death, a horrible disease that always ends in, well, death. The princesses' mother was taken by it. And when it once again visits the royal house of Bamarre, Meryl's determination to find the cure strengthens. That is, until it strikes Meryl down as well.
There's no way Addie can survive without her sister. But to keep her sister, Addie is going to have to find the cure for Grey Death herself.
Levine's most popular book by far is Ella Enchanted, but this book has always been my favorite of hers. She captures Addie's fearful voice perfectly, without making her overly annoying but never excusing her cowardice. I love Addie. She's one of the best princesses ever.
The story may be a little slow - the action doesn't pick up until a good ten or twelve (shortish) chapters in - but it's not boring. Until then, you have lovely character and world building that's always interesting. You learn of the different creatures in Bamarre - specters that will lead you to your death but can tell the future if you catch one, fierce dragons that steal both treasure and prisoners to entertain them, elusive fairies that haven't been seen for years, and the elves that sometimes serve humans - as well as some of the customs. Drualt is the great Bamarrian epic, telling the tales of 'the laugher,' Drualt, who is Addie's hero. I just love Bamarre. One of my favorite worlds ever.
And the side characters are awesome. Rhys is a sorcerer - he's in his seventies, but since sorcerers are actually a whole different race (they're born when lightning strikes marble) and live for five hundred years, he's actually only in his early twenties in human time. Naturally he becomes Addie's love interest, but he's so cute. He has a habit of bowing; he has white eyelashes and unattractively large, bony feet; and he actually helps Addie in her quest as much as he can. One of the best love interests ever.
Meryl, as the spunky princess, is amazingly tolerable, and I can see why Addie is so devoted to her; you can tell she really does care for Addie. Milton and Bella, servants of the princesses, have smaller roles but are equally fun to listen to. And Vollys, the dragon Addie meets, is... interesting. Very, very interesting. One of the most interesting dragons ever.
And the ending. Oh, man, the ending. I can't give anything away, but... one of the best endings ever.
Okay, by now, you may think that Princesses is one of my favorite books ever. And it is. It's not brilliant, maybe, and it's a very quiet sort of awesome - not an in-your-face, screaming sort of awesome, like the Books of Umber or Harry Potter. But it is awesome, and I can find very little fault with it. The whole love issue between Addie and Rhys was a bit abrupt? Whatever, it's a fairytale. They're adorable anyway. Everyone's adorable. And awesome. Like the book. Read it. Seriously, go read it now.