Eva Mitnick's Reviews > The Thirteenth Princess

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
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Mar 15, 2010

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bookshelves: children, fantasy
Read in March, 2010

Most people who have enjoyed fairy tale-based fantasies by Gail Carson Levine, Donna Jo Napoli, and others will find this a pleasant and well-written diversion. Although not as funny as Levine's tales or as psychologically insightful as Napoli's, there is plenty of substance here. Zita is as plucky a heroine as one could want, yet her father's failure to love her fills her with both puzzlement and despair. The twelve princesses remain unsurprisingly interchangeable, for the most part, but their father is more complex. Elements of other fairy tales are intriguingly wound into the story, adding both freshness and depth.

The tale isn't totally satisfying. Although we learn the motive behind the enchantment of the princesses, the details aren't explained. Why the silver and diamond trees? Why the elaborate food at the nightly enchanted balls? Yes, these are part of the traditional tale - but their presence in this tale remains an enigma. The breaking of the enchantment is quite rushed, and in fact all the magical bits are a bit too easy. For example, Zita and Breckin instantly master the magical art of blending so perfectly into their surroundings as to become invisible - this comes in very handy, of course.

Still, Zita's Cinderella-like story and her able narration of her tale will keep most readers content until the happy ending. For grades 4 to 7.
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