Princess Margaret is incensed. Her father has offered half the Kingdom and her hand in marriage to the prince who defeats the dragon, withers the witc...morePrincess Margaret is incensed. Her father has offered half the Kingdom and her hand in marriage to the prince who defeats the dragon, withers the witch, and beats down the bandits who are 'terrorising' the Kingdom. Honestly, the dragon hasn't eaten anyone since Margaret's great-aunt, the witch is mostly harmless -- good luck charms and love spells and the occasional metamorphosis into a frog, but only for those who really deserve it. And Meg can't help but admire the bandits' whole 'rob from the rich to give to the poor' schtick. Meg doesn't even want to marry a prince -- they're all so boring -- and as a final indignity she is to be 'sequestered' in the highest tower of the castle until the contest is won. As if! However, warning the witch, defending the dragon, and backing the bandits is harder than Meg thought it would be with all those princes in the way, not to mention having to maintain the illusion of her presence in the tower, with only a garden boy, a maid, and an over-eager junior guardsman as accomplices. And then things get *really* complicated . . . (less)
I've definitely got some interesting things to say about this one. So much complexity in a deceptively simple package. One of the things being that it...moreI've definitely got some interesting things to say about this one. So much complexity in a deceptively simple package. One of the things being that it took me halfway through the book to suddenly have this brain flash: This is a dystopian novel! And it is, absolutely. That fact is just a little obscured by the fact that it's not actually a future dystopia -- the world of the Restaurant is not our world at all, but a typical high fantasy world suffering from The Accident in which all magic was lost from a world that depended on it - a loss that coincided with the loss of the rightful rulers leaving the land in the hands of a 'provisional' Queen with a penchant for giving sickly sweet speeches about how wonderful everything is under her benevolent rule and making sure that anyone who doesn't immediately agree and tell her how wonderful she is mysteriously disappears. Said Queen is also determined to remove that pesky 'Provisional' from her title by any means necessary. Enter Jasper, the twelver-year-old son of one of the the kingdom's most eminent scientists -- now permanently reassigned to brewing ever increasing dosages of the kingdom's version of Botox for the Queen. The Queen seems to have taken an unhealthy amount of interest in Jasper and his little sister Sibilla, and in the family's flight from the city Jasper is left behind. What follows is Jasper's quest to reunite with his family and to save his little sister from the clutches of the Evil Queen. As in all good quest narratives, along the way he meets a variety of helpers and antagonists, and some who seem to fit in both categories. Secrets are shared and pasts are revealed, but it's all secondary to the main objective -- get to Sibilla and protect her at all costs.
And this is where I think this book really shines. It definitely falls into the category of 'kid has to save the day because the adults can't be trusted to do it right'. But all the adults in this book are *realistically* flawed. They're not stupid, or naive, but they are all damaged, with emotional and mental wounds that often impair their better judgement. Reading this, you're constantly reminded that the adults *remember* a time when things were good. There is a certain overwhelmed helplessness to their actions - you get the feeling they are constantly looking around in bewilderment -- how did we go from normal to *this*?
For the children, this *is* normal. There's anger, absolutely, but there's none of that paralyzing disbelief and denial. It is this very acceptance -- this almost protective attitude toward the adults -- that is most heartbreaking. I was struck particularly by the scene in which Jasper almost tells his aunt that the man she loves - who she believes is dead - was instead captured alive. He starts to say something, then catches himself. The man was captured. He's going to be dead soon anyway. No need for her to grieve twice. No twelve-year-old should have to think like that.
From my description at this point you're probably imagining some dark depressing narrative along the lines of The Hunger Games. That couldn't be further from the truth. The genius of this book is that the story, in all its dystopian anguish, is told in a straight-forward, fairy-tale style narration that, much like Jasper himself, downplays the darker events in favour of focusing on the next step toward achieving the goal. And, of course, there's quite a bit of humour sprinkled in for some much needed comic relief.(less)
This was an interesting version of the 'misfit teen' genre. Kantor's protagonist - having been moved from California to New York due to her father's m...moreThis was an interesting version of the 'misfit teen' genre. Kantor's protagonist - having been moved from California to New York due to her father's marriage to a woman she detests with two young daughters she can't stand -- actually gets what every misfit teen girl longs for: popularity, and the hottest boy in school for her boyfriend. Only problem is, now that she's got it, is it really what she wants?(less)
This is the sixth, and probably last, book in Jones' Faerie Path series, which has been my cheesy fairy romance crack of choice since they first start...moreThis is the sixth, and probably last, book in Jones' Faerie Path series, which has been my cheesy fairy romance crack of choice since they first started coming out. There are one or two loose ends left open, but overall it's a satisfying conclusion to the series.(less)
This is like a teen version of War For the Oaks, with a little bit of Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin thrown in there for good measure. Really quite goo...moreThis is like a teen version of War For the Oaks, with a little bit of Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin thrown in there for good measure. Really quite good.(less)
When Gretchen was eight, she and her brother and her twin sister went looking for a witch in the woods. When they finally made their way home, Gretche...moreWhen Gretchen was eight, she and her brother and her twin sister went looking for a witch in the woods. When they finally made their way home, Gretchen's sister had vanished. Haunted by the loss of their sister and plagued by nightmares of the yellow-eyed being who chased them, Gretchen and Ansel rely only on each other as first their mother, and then their father succumb to their grief. After being kicked out by their stepmother when Gretchen turns eighteen, the siblings travel cross-country looking for a new start. They find it in the small town of Live Oak, South Carolina, when their ancient car breaks down and local candy-maker Sophia takes them in. But something is not right in this small Southern town. Girls are disappearing and the locals blame Sophia, calling her a witch. Troubled by the similarity to her own childhood trauma, Gretchen is determined to find the truth about the disappearances and to vindicate Sophia, but as she digs deeper with the help of local outcast Samuel, she stumbles on more than she bargained for. This is a very interesting conflation of 'Hansel and Gretel' and 'Red Riding Hood' - the atmosphere is dark and perfect.(less)