Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fairy's Return

I saw Gail Carson Levine's The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales at work the other day.  I've previously read Ella Enchanted, so I know that Levine is an excellent author.  I've never heard of these other stories, and I was in the mood for something silly and fun, so I decided to give them a shot.  The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales is made up of six Princess Tales, all set in the land of Biddle.

In The Fairy's Mistake, twin sisters Rosella and Myrtle look alike but are polar opposites personality-wise.  Myrtle is the spoiled favourite child while Rosella is the sweet and kind sister.  When Rosella goes to fetch water from the well, she gives an old lady a drink.  That old lady is actually the fairy Ethelinda, who rewards Rosella for her kindness; every time Rosella speaks, jewels will fall from her mouth.  When Myrtle hears of this, she runs off to the well in search of the same thing.  But Myrtle is mean and ends up cursed; every time she speaks, snakes and bugs fall from her lips.  But things go awry when a greedy prince spies Rosella; he whisks her off to the castle and makes her keep talking so he can fill chests with the precious stones.  Meanwhile Myrtle terrorizes her village, threatening to speak unless people give her things!

The Princess Test was a retelling of "The Princess and the Pea."  The blacksmith's daughter, Lorelei, is the fussiest baby in the village.  Nothing can be too hot or too cold; everything must be perfect.  To make matters worse, she easily gets sick or hurt while playing or doing chores.  Her loving parents do their best for her, but after her mother dies, her father brings on a housekeeper, Trudy.  Trudy finds the girl useless, and soon plots to kill her.  Meanwhile, Lorelei catches the eye of Prince Nicholas.  The prince loves her and wants to marry her, but his parents have decreed that he can only marry a princess that passes all of their tests, including feeling a pea through twenty mattresses.  How can a blacksmith's daughter possibly pass such tests?

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep is a particularly funny retelling of "Sleeping Beauty."  At her naming ceremony, the fairies bless her to be beautiful, graceful, and brilliant, meaning ten times smarter than other humans.  So Sonora grows up as a very a-typical child - she speaks perfectly when she is still a baby, she reads all the books in the library, and generally spends her time coming up with ways to improve the lives of those around her.  Of course, no one really wants to listen to a child telling them how to do their job.  Sonora was also cursed to prick her finger on a spindle and die, which gets softened to meaning she and her castle will sleep for 100 years.  So Sonora grows up refusing to sleep, figuring she will have more than enough time to sleep once the curse happens.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill is of course Cinderella, but with a twist.  Ellis is a boy who grew up with his two older brothers, Ralph and Burt.  He earns the nickname of Cinderellis when he is testing out one of his inventions near the fireplace.  All Cinderellis wanted was the love of his brothers, but they barely seemed to notice him.  So he grows up inventing things, all the while hoping that one of his inventions will earn their love and respect.  When their fields of hay are eaten, Ralph and Burt blame goblins, but Ellis knows it's actually a horse.  Over the course of three years, he ends up finding three beautiful mares, one copper, one silver, and one gold.  By touching their bridles, he breaks the spell binding them to an evil magician; the mares love him for it and will do anything for him.  Ellis would have gladly given the mares to his brothers, but as usual, they won't even admit that he had anything to do with the hay problem.  So Ellis keeps the mares happily fed with his horse treats in a special stable he made by his workshop.  Meanwhile, Princess Marigold is also lonely.  Her father goes off questing for things, staying for maybe a week before he is off again.  He was planning on looking for a suitable husband for her, but when he is cursed by an imp to stay put for five years, he comes up with a crazy scheme to bring the eligible bachelors to him: Marigold will be placed on top of a glass pyramid with three golden apples.  If anyone with armor and a horse can ride up the pyramid to get the apples, he will become a prince and marry Marigold. Of course, Marigold isn't too keen on this arrangement, and brings her own secret weapon to stop people from making it to the top!  Cinderellis and the Glass Hill was a really cute take on the classic "Cinderella."

At first I thought For Biddle's Sake was based off of "Rapunzel."  While the beginning might have been, the story was actually based off of "The Frog Prince."  Of course it was with a twist, for this time it wasn't the prince who was the frog!  As a baby, Parsley (Patsy by birth) would only eat parsley.  Her father had to get it from a fairy's garden.  Eventually the fairy, Bombina, came home to find him stealing her parsley.  She demanded to see the baby, and promptly fell in love with Parsley's green smile.  She adopted the girl and brought her to live in her fairy castle.  Bombina was good to Parsley, but had a habit of turning people into toads.  She promised the girl she wouldn't turn any more people into toads in an effort to get Parsley smiling again.  But when Bombina sees Parsley smiling at the three princes of Biddle, she grows jealous.  Preparing to turn them into toads, she is horrified to discover Parsley went in front of her spell; Bombina turned her beloved girl into a toad!  And plead as she does with the fairy queen, Bombina discovers that the only way the spell can be undone is if someone proposes marriage to Parsley.  Meanwhile, the three princes are sent on three quests: first to find linen fine enough to fit in the King's ring, second to find a dog small enough to fit in a walnut, and third to find the most beautiful bride.  The king believes that his youngest son, Tansy, is a terror and doesn't want him to participate, unaware that his older twin sons have been blaming all of their mischief on him for years.  He reluctantly allows Tansy to participate.  While the tasks are impossible, Parsley, discovering she can do magic like Bombina because she is now a magical creature, helps Prince Tansy with the tasks.  All the while, they discover they have much in common, and Tansy falls in love with the toad's beautiful smile.

The last story, The Fairy's Return, was probably my least favourite.  Robin is the baker's son.  On a routine trip to the castle with his father and two older brothers, he wanders into the Royal Gardens and befirends the princess.  Princess Lark has always had people behave very carefully around her - they don't want to anger her, and they don't want her to lose at games.  So when this commoner comes in and starts telling her jokes, treating her like a real person, she finds herself falling in love with him.  But neither of their fathers want them marrying. Because robin makes her laugh, King Harrumphrey decrees that any prince who can make his daughter laugh will have her hand in marriage.  As a baker's son, Robin cannot compete.  But with the help of Ethelininda, who has lost all confidence in herself after her reward and punishment went so awry in The Fairy's Mistake, ad a golden goose, Robin sets out to win the hand of his princess, all the while dodging the arranged marriage his family has set up for him!

Overall, The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales accomplished exactly what I wanted: it was both silly and fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the land of Biddle.

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