Knopf, 2008 (2008)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ave you ever wondered about the prince in
? Aside from the kiss, he doesn't get much time in the spotlight in the original fairytale. Helen Lowe makes up for that lack in
, which is essentially his story.
rince Sigismund's family is reputed to be cursed, as few members live to reach their majority - his own mother was poisoned when he was young. With his father long gone, handling unrest in the south of the kingdom, Sigismund grows up at the West Castle, surrounded by a small retinue, wondering what it would be like to encounter dragons and go on a Grail quest. From his tower refuge he can see the nearby Wood, interdicted long ago by his great-grandfather.
fter the dreams begin, Sigismund has his first encounter with the evil faie who calls herself the Margravine zu Malvolin, and also with a ragged, barefoot village girl named Rue (though no-one else seems able to see her). He's helped by a good faie, Syrica, who recounts a story of a princess (her goddaughter) '
cursed at her naming ceremony
' and of a great hedge of thorns that grew around a palace sleeping for a hundred years.
earing of the misadventure with the Margravine, the absent king summons Balisan from the Paladinates to guard and teach his son. Sigismund continues to have adventures, both magical and mundane, slowly realizing that he is the one destined to rescue the sleeping princess and that powerful forces are ranged against him. The death of a friend grieves him but also increases his resolve to fight the Margravine, who has been responsible for the realm's unrest.
igismund learns to
and exploit lines of power, and to move between his own world and other dimensions (in which time flows differently). He's trapped by the Margravine, but escapes by calling on his own resources, along with a little help from a friend. The prince comes of age when he opposes his stern father to do what he knows is right and save the people he cares about. He wins a sword and ultimately wins the day.
as an excellent retelling of
, that enriches the original by developing the characters (rather two dimensional and passive in the fairytale) of both the legendary prince and the princess.
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