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by Gail Carson Levine

Age Range: 9 - 14

Pub Date: May 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-029315-2
Publisher: HarperCollins

A decidedly unspunky heroine quails her way past terrors real and imaginary in a quest to save her sister's life. Addie, the younger of the two eponymous princesses, watches as her sister Meryl practices for a life of swordplay and derring-do; she herself would much rather sit quietly and do her needlework. But when Meryl falls ill with the incurable Gray Death, Addie steels herself to find a cure, venturing forth to encounter specters, dragons, ogres, and—almost the worst of all—spiders. She is aided by an assortment of magical items and periodic visits from Rhys, her father's sorcerer. Punctuated by excerpts from Drualt, Bamarre's epic poem, the text clearly aims at Tolkienesque high fantasy, complete with a tantalizingly unfulfilled prophecy regarding the cure for the Gray Death. But Levine's (The Wish, 2000, etc.) strength lies in character development and world-making, not in epic plot construction. Addie is a refreshingly timid quester whose unabashed love for embroidery sets her apart from the hordes of plucky heroines who have gone before. The attributes of the various non-human creatures that populate her world are well-defined—especially the sorcerers, magical beings who live 500 years and only very rarely marry humans—and her prolonged "visit" with a delightfully evil dragon is quite wonderful. These elements are not enough to elevate a plot that moves unevenly from adventure to adventure, involving multiple convenient rescues, a predictable romance, and an ultimately unsatisfying deus ex machina at the end. Does this matter? Levine's popularity and a publicity juggernaut virtually ensure this book's success, despite its flaws. (Fiction. 9-14)