Addie admires her older sister Meryl, who aspires to rid the kingdom of Bamarre of gryphons, specters, and ogres. Addie, on the other hand, is fearful even of spiders and depends on Meryl for courage and protection. Waving her sword Bloodbiter, the older girl declaims in the garden from the heroic epic of Drualt to a thrilled audience of Addie, their governess, and the young sorcerer Rhys.
But when Meryl falls ill with the dreaded Gray Death, Addie must gather her courage and set off alone on a quest to find the cure and save her beloved sister. Addie takes the seven-league boots and magic spyglass left to her by her mother and the enchanted tablecloth and cloak given to her by Rhys along with a shy declaration of his love. She prevails in encounters with tricky specters (spiders too) and outwits a wickedly personable dragon in adventures touched with romance and a bittersweet ending.
Gail Carson Levine captivated me once again with her tale, The Two Princesses of Bamarre. This book is about two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Meryl is brave and strong while Addie is pretty much afraid of anything that moves. Their father is indifferent and their mother has died, so they really only have each other to rely on. When Meryl becomes ill, Addie begins a quest to find a cure for her sister. Along the way, she quotes lines from the epic of Drualt the whole kingdom is familiar with:
“Step follows step, Hope follows Courage, Set your face towards danger, Set your heart on victory.”
I love all the little lessons throughout the book: that sometimes a battle with a dragon can be won with only your wits, how a single step is all it takes to face your fears, and how love really can make all the difference. Through her adventures, Addie discovers her inner strength and unites her kingdom. I love the world that Levine has created, and how she shows the bond that exists between sisters.
Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2002)