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Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
November 2011

Title: The False Princess
Author: Eilis O'Neal
EAN: 9781606840795

As a Princess, I am always drawn to books with the word "Princess" in the title. I'm usually disappointed when I read the jacket copy. I was not disappointed, however, upon discovering Eilis O'Neal's The False Princess, and I snapped it right off the shelf.

The book begins with our heroine, Nalia, princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor. But within the first fifteen pages, we discover (as does Nalia) that she is not the royal princess at all. Sixteen years ago, an oracle told the royal couple that there would be an assassination attempt on the princess before her sixteenth birthday. In response, they had baby Nalia spirited away and replaced with a common girl. That girl was Sinda Azaway. And now that she has turned sixteen, it is time to remove the glamour, reveal her true origins, and send her packing so that the real Nalia might be welcomed home.

It's a lovely spin on the traditional Princess Diaries-ish tale where a common girl discovers she's really a princess. What happens when you are the girl who has everything and then the rug is pulled out from under you? You now have no money, no parents, no clothes but the dress on your back, and no right to your friends . . . whatever true friends you may have been able to make as a royal princess. What do you do?

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As much as girls of any age enjoy deluding themselves with the thought that they are one mistaken identity away from a rich and famous care free life, Sinda's fall from the top of the hill strikes closer to home. As we grow up we realize that we are not Harry Potter or Cinderella: we are just who we are. But who is that? And after such an emotional blow, how do we find the energy to keep moving forward?

I was thrilled with the story that developed in The False Princess. Sinda's voice remains true to her character throughout the book, and the author pulls no punches when it comes to painful emotional drama . . . or just tripping over one's own skirt hem. There is, of course, more to the subterfuge than a simple switching of babies. And, true to form, there is more to Sinda than your average common peasant girl; she just has to learn to embrace it.

An excellent twist, an adventurous plot, and characters that come from the heart -- The False Princess is a slam dunk for debut author Eilis O'Neal. (And not just because the infamous oracle's name was "Alethea" . . . that was a nice surprise!) I highly recommend The False Princess to all fantasy loving misfits aged 12 and up, though I suspect the teenage girls will fall in love with Sinda the most. Very well done. I definitely look forward to reading more form this author!

Title: The Grimm Legacy
Author: Polly Shulman
EAN: 9780142419045

How fabulous is this premise: You're hand-selected by your favorite high school teacher and given a personal recommendation for an internship at a very special lending library -- a library with a large collection of magical objects from all of Grimm's fairy tales. But there's a rumor of a monster attacking people in the hallways, and magical items keep disappearing. So do pages. Awesome, right?

Elizabeth is recommended by a professor to start working at the New York Circulating Material Repository, the keeper of the Grimm Collection. Working alongside her is the beautiful Anjali and handsome basketball star Marc, on whom she's had a crush most of her high school career. Friendships intertwine with the adventure here, inside a fairly predictable plot.

It's true, the idea of The Grimm Legacy is fabulous . . . but upon finishing it I still felt like I was missing something. Trouble is, I can't tell you exactly what. Perhaps I had expected it to be even more clever and have even more adventure and put its characters in even more peril. I can't complain, though -- as is, it certainly reached tolerable levels for all three of these things. Dare I call it "tame"?

According to the back of the book, School Library Journal gave it a star (well done, Polly Shulman!) and said that the story "pulls out all the stops." The jacket copy warns that the characters will be caught up in "an exciting but dangerous adventure." While I did enjoy the modus operandi of the villain of the piece (no spoilers here), I did not feel that the main characters were ever really in danger. I also didn't feel that the New York landscape was used to its fullest potential.

The Grimm Legacy will make a fun movie (if that ever happens). It's a good story that the younger set will surely enjoy. But if you're well-versed in fairy tales and you've watched enough episodes of Game of Thrones to have your peril bar set to maximum, you might aim a little higher.

The coolest thing, really, upon finishing the book and reading the author bio on the back jacket, is discovering that Polly Shulman herself was a page at the New York Public Library during her high school years. She, too, was entrusted with the key to the "special materials" cage there. Who knows what mysterious items down there might have sparked a bit of magic!

Read more by Alethea Kontis

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