Allison's Book Bag

Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Levine

Posted on: June 8, 2010

This is not my first introduction to Gail Levine, the movie Ella Enchanted is, but this is my first introduction to her books. It will not be the last either, for Levine has catapulted into my top five list of modern fantasy authors. The Two Princesses of Bamarre is one of many of her books that I have now read.

The two princesses could not be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. She wants nothing more than to stay home with family beside her. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. She wants nothing more than to seek out adventure.

Tradition would dictate this story belong to Meryl, but what I most like about Levine is that she regularly turns cliche on its head. Like Cimorene in Dealing with Dragons, Meryl is the bored female who wants to escape domestic life. Unlike Cimorene, she chooses to stay home to be with family who don’t want her to leave. In this decision, unlike in Dealing with Dragons, this story becomes about the timid and quiet princess. What a daring and delightful decision on the part of Levine.

Why do stories normally center around the extroverted person? Well, introverts typically do not have adventures and therefore often make for rather lackluster characters. This might be fine for a minor character, but we want our main characters to be active. Consider, when we first meet the sisters, Meryl is rescuring Addie from a spector and wielding a sword. (Levine even breaks from cliche here, in that everyone at the palace seems perfectly content to allow Meryl to act like an improper princess.) As for Addie, she is showing her embroidery to a wizard.

Then the impossible happens. Meryl catches the dreaded Grey Death. All those years of staying at the castle to pacify her sister and now she could die without ever experiencing adventure. Of course, this is when Addie steps up to the challenge. She heads out into unknown territory to find the fairies who might have a cure. Do I smell a cliche? No! For even here, Levine escapes cliche by having Addie become trapped by a dragon–and spend most of Meryl’s deteriorating days trapped in a cave.

Gail Carson Levine at the 2007 Texas Book Fest...

Image via Wikipedia

I noted at the start that Levine has become one of my favorite modern authors. Her characters are always sympathetic and fun. She rarely fails to surprise me with a twist in her plot. Yes, behind every adventure there is a moral to be learned, but her truths are wrapped in such lavish and elegant tales, I appreciate her books even more for them.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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