Brandy Painter's Reviews > A True Princess

A True Princess by Diane Zahler
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Oct 24, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: childrens, fairy-tale-retellings, fantasy
Read in September, 2011

Originally posted here.

The is a book that sounded tailor made for me so I was rather disappointed at not enjoying it. There were elements of the book I enjoyed. The writing is descriptive and the northern European setting with the Northern Lights was interesting. Lilia is a brave heroine and a loyal friend. There are heroic knights, a handsome prince, and the whole "boy next door" storyline. I liked that while Lilia was the princess who passed the test the outcome revealed was far different than in "The Princess and the Pea".

So what was my problem?

This is a reworking of "The Princess and the Pea" but it also contains Goethe's "The Elf King" (in the form of actual stanzas from the poem) and has elements of Anderson's "The Snow Queen". Plus the lore of Odin's Hunt is thrown in for good measure. Both "The Elf King" and "The Snow Queen" are dark and perilous stories. This book is not dark or perilous in anyway. Goethe's Elf King is scary. That poem packs a punch and the villain in this book comes nowhere close to doing it justice. His daughter is vain, spoiled, petulant and childish nowhere near as forbidding (or seductive) as Anderson's Snow Queen. I just don't think the novel did the source material justice and adds nothing to it.

Lilia and Kai have a very sweet friendship/flirtation going on (paralleling the relationship of Gerda and Kai in Anderson's tale), except Kai is far more an innocent victim in this version and I didn't find him to be that interesting.. The romance between Prince Tycho and Karina was rather shallow. It was, look how noble he appears+look how beautiful she is=LOVE. Blech.

My final complaint was in the idea that Lilia couldn't function properly as a serving maid because she was born a princess. I'm sorry, the girl couldn't make decent porridge because princesses are inherently bad at cooking? Kai says this to her toward the end: "You were a bad servant to Ylva because you were a princess." No. No. No. She should have worked her lazy self harder and learned how to make decent porridge or sew better, or dust better. I really didn't have much respect for Lilia's character despite her bravery because she really didn't try to overcome her weaknesses. I prefer stories that show that it is how we act and not how we are born that define us as people.

The book is short, only 184 pages, and very tame. I think it would appeal most to girls in the 8-10 age range.
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