Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
Title: The False Princess
Author: Eilis O'Neal
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?
Continued Below Advertisement
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
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