From the author of the Dairy Queen series comes this ebullient fairy tale, set in a vaguely Teutonic empire of small baronies, duchies and kingdoms.
Charting the adventures of humble orphans Trudy, a kitchen maid, and Tips, a miller’s son and object of Trudy’s affections, the story’s scope soon broadens to include Princess Wisdom and her grandmother, Benevolence, from the female-led ruling family of Montagne, a small kingdom coveted by larger, wealthier Farina (Princess Ben, 2008). All are nominally subjects of Emperor Rüdiger IV, whose passion is his grand circus. “Told through seven voices” in diaries, letters, encyclopedia entries, self-published family history and a play, the complicated plot unfolds briskly with panache and humor, braiding imperial ambition and marriages of convenience with true love and longing. Trudy yearns for Tips; Tips yearns for Wisdom; Wisdom yearns for the circus; the Duchess of Farina yearns to absorb Montagne. All work out their destinies with gusto and determination (aided or thwarted by witchcraft courtesy of Montagne’s royal family). Only the ending, referencing the story’s fairy-tale provenance, fails to thoroughly satisfy.
If not quite the sumptuous banquet anticipated, the novel still makes a satisfying, tasty treat. (glossary of terms) (Fantasy. 10 & up)