April 18, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball

By Jessica Day George
Rating: 4 stars

In a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rose is the eldest of the 12 daughters of King Gregor and Queen Maude. The barren queen had made a desperate bargain with the King Under Stone, an evil sorceror who had been imprisoned under the earth by a group of magicians so long ago that it has taken on the glow of legend. In return for the ability to have children and produce an heir, Queen Maude would dance for the King Under Stone once a month. But the evil King takes advantage of the innocent queen and when she stretches the bargain to include winning the war against a neighboring nation, the King Under Stone finds a way to draw her 12 daughters into the deal--a deal that would eventually make them brides for his 12 dark sons and perhaps give him and them enough power to break free from their underground prison. Rose and the other girls are miserable and sick of dancing every 3rd evening with their dark princes, but they are unable to speak of their enchantment or break it. King Gregor invites princes from everywhere to try and uncover the spell and if they do, they may win the hand of a princess as well as the kingdom. No one has any luck. But Galen, a young man back from the war and working as an under-gardener at the palace is determined to try his luck for he has fallen for the beautiful Rose. With the help of some magical gifts given to him by an old crone along the road and one of the other gardeners who is more than what he seems, will Galen be able to discover the nature of the girls' enchantment? And if he does, can he set them free of it? Although readers may be familiar with the tale and how it ends, the deeper characterizations and details plus a few additional plot twists make this a very enjoyable retelling.

April 01, 2009

The Farwalker's Quest

By Joni Sensel
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

In this interesting fantasy twist, Ariel lives in a small village with her healer mother and best friend Zeke who hopes to become a Tree-Singer during their upcoming Namingfest. Then Ariel finds a relic from the past--a telling dart. The telling dart was capable of being sent across many miles directly to the person the message was meant for with a long forgotten technology. But the dart brings more than just an unknown message. Two men--Finders--arrive, looking for the dart as well as for the one who found it. And before Ariel knows it, she has been kidnapped by them for they suspect her to be the last of the Farwalkers, a trade that was thought to have died out. Soon Ariel, and eventually Zeke, find themselves tracing the telling dart back to its source in a search for answers and perhaps even treasure, and on their way, their true callings surface. There is plenty of action and adventure in this story and Ariel must learn to tell the truth from the lies and to grow up long before her time to face her destiny. A very likeable tale with hopeful possibilities of a sequel. Thumbs up!