Zita is the thirteenth princess of a king who desperately wants a son. When his wife dies giving birth to Zita he doesn’t want to see her and she is raised as a servant in the castle. When she learns she is a princess on her twelfth birthday, she begins to sneak up to her sisters bedroom to get to know them. They are thrilled to accept their wronged sister. When the 12 princesses become seriously ill, Zita, with the help of Breckin, Milek and a witch, must save them from certain death.
This fairy-tale twist comes from the Grimm’s tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Zita is conflicted about her Dad not loving her and struggles internally with why he abandoned her to the servants. When she deals with others she is always kind and respectful and a little too mature for her age. She and Breckin are sensitive to each others feelings and back down when they start to hurt each other. I would have found it more interesting and authentic if they fought and said mean things to each other and learned from them. Twelve year olds struggle with this so much. The innocence of the characters made me think it would be good for younger students but there are discussions about romance that are for older readers. While there isn’t much depth to these discussions, the allusions would keep me from recommending it to younger students. For instance, Zita wonders about kissing and the maids say girls need to know when to stop kissing. There are also hints about the king, maids, and footmen having dalliances. I wish the author had kept it at flirting but she alludes to a more mature theme. Also, without spoiling the ending, there is a death in the book that might scare a reader/child who is experiencing fears of death. I would recommend this book to grade 5 and up.