by Gail Carson Levine, published 2001
“Today Bamarre needed a hero more than ever… I was no hero. The dearest wishes of my heart were for safety and tranquility. The world was a perilous place, wrong for the likes of me.”
The theme of discovering one’s own courage is told and retold in many a folk take or children’s book. This particular version takes on the theme in the midst of a fantasy world that has ogres, dragons, fairies, specters, gryphons, and sorcerers. But least you think that the list is overwhelming, actually it’s quite manageable. Each of the species is represented by a main character – Rhys the sorcerer, Vollys the dragon, are lead characters, along with the two princesses.
One of the lovely aspects of this children’s book is the love between two sisters, and the complete transformation that their relationship goes through. The love gets stronger in the end, as the sister who has always felt weak, discovers her courage, and the stronger sister is freed to move on to even greater challenges. It’s hard not to think of the two sisters in Frozen, since that’s on most kid’s mind. These two sisters evoke the same kind of interest, but in this children’s book, they are never separated from each other’s love, at all, even when they are physically separated.
The best part of the story for me was the return of the fairies. In the beginning, we are told the fairies have gone, and children no long have fairy godmothers. In the end, they return. Imagine a world bereft of fairy godmothers, and how wonderful to have a children’s book to remedy it!