June 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles

By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Elodie is on her way, by herself, to the city of Two Castles with the hopes of apprenticing to the mansioners (actors), although her parents think she is off to become a weaver.  Two Castles boasts an ogre who lives in one castle, a dragon, and a king and princess, as well as many many cats.  But when Elodie finds that her grand plans of becoming a mansioner apprentice are dashed, the dragon Meenore offers to take her on as an assistant.  And almost immediately, Elodie and Meenore are visited by the ogre himself, Count Jonty Um, whom Meenore has deduced is in danger of his life from the townsfolk and perhaps others.  The dragon sends Elodie as a servant to the count's castle in hopes that her eyes and ears may pick up clues to who may wish the count harm.  Elodie is quickly impressed by the kindness of Count Jonty Um and his ability to shapeshift into other animals so when the king announces the princess is to marry the count, she is pleased for him.  But when he is forced at a feast to shift into a mouse and the cats chase him, Elodie fears the worst.  Is the count still alive?  And who signaled the normally well-trained cats to attack?  Elodie, with the help of Meenore, try their best to solve the mystery, but it may cost one of them their life.   A fantasy-mystery hybrid that is highly enjoyable and, one hopes, is the start of a series of cases to solve.

June 13, 2011

Princess of Glass

By Jessica Day George
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

If you like fairy tale retellings, you will love this book!  George follows up her retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses which was titled Princess of the Midnight Ball and picks up a different sister of the twelve, Poppy.  After the many years of strife caused by the evil underground lord, the king decides to send out his daughters as goodwill ambassadors to neighboring lands.  Poppy has ended up in Breton and so has the handsome Prince Christian from the Danelaw.  Poppy won't dance and won't talk about the mysterious happenings from her past--what is done is done, she hopes.  But then the hapless servant Eleanor enters her life--a noble girl fallen on hard times.  And Poppy starts to glimpse the possibility of magic--evil magic--surrounding Eleanor and her actions.  When Christian and some others seem to be falling under a spell, too, Poppy knows she needs to take action and fast.  What can one princess far from home do to save everyone from ruin?  Based loosely on Cinderella, readers will eat this up and be eager for more.  Let's hope George has more stories with more sisters up her sleeve.