DOVE ISABEAU by Jane Yolen


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A powerful, and powerfully told, story that begins innocently like a Snow White variant but has a horrifying middle and a problematic conclusion. Isabeau, beloved by all (including the king's son), is as gentle as a dove; but after her wicked stepmother transforms her into a dragon, she kills the 99 warriors sent to battle her. Finally comes the prince, who discards his sword and kisses her, thus restoring Isabeau but turning himself to stone--temporarily: the little cat that once tasted Isabeau's pure blood brings him back to life so that he and Isabeau--in a red dress--can marry. Now he loves her for the "fire beneath the skin" (just before Isabeau kills her, the stepmother calls it "the legacy of all those rash young men you devoured") and names her his "glorious dragon queen." Seriously intended and provocative; but if the loss of innocence is as violent as Yolen suggests, there is a price to pay (cf. Oedipus), and the personality that emerges is liable to be as much scarred as strengthened--which she does not suggest. Nolan's somber, dramatic paintings--with sturdy, unsentimentalized characterizations and a sinuous, nightmarish dragon that looks as if it's been flayed--suit the story very well.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0152015051
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1989


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