In her third fairy-tale novelization, Zahler (The Thirteenth Princess, 2010, and A True Princess, 2011) dips into Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans" and mixes in a bit of Celtic folklore.
Twelve-year-old Princess Meriel often vies for the attention of her five older brothers and envies them for their schooling and sports, rebelling against the royal traditions of her day. When her father arrives home at Castle Rua unexpectedly with the beautiful and silken-voiced Lady Orianna, his new queen (the king was widowed 10 years earlier), Princess Meriel is alarmed, and two mornings later her brothers are gone.... A terrible enchantment, powerful spells, Faerie folk (most of whom live below ground, except for good and bad witches) and a mysterious spring set the scene for what turns out to be a much larger battle between good and evil. Riona, a young half-witch herbalist and her brother Liam, an animal healer, also play an important role in this suspenseful, ultimately romantic tale in which Princess Meriel must rescue her brothers, who have been transformed into swans. To break the spell, the princess needs to sew five shirts from stinging nettles without speaking aloud, while eluding the wicked queen who is hot on her trail. Though largely plot-driven, a story that tends to skate on the surface, it is nonetheless engaging and entertaining, especially appropriate for younger middle-grade readers.
A pleasant magical outing. (Fairy tale/fantasy. 8-12)