Ah, the glory of the library basement book sale, where books are $0.50, or even free! Thanks to the generosity of people donating books during the holiday season, my local library was practically begging people to take their donated and overstock books to give them forever homes. I am a little sad to learn that this one was my library’s only copy, but since it hadn’t been checked out in so long it got booted to the sale bin. I had a few free hours and wanted to read and finish something short, and this fit the bill perfectly!
This is a fairy tale meant for children, as opposed to the fairy tale meant for adults in my last review. It is very silly and clever, but still has an important message to convey. It takes place in the kingdom of Couscous (many of the names are ridiculous), where the rules of fairy tales are in followed to the letter. Rose is the third born princess, and hence is supposed to be the most beautiful. Except she’s not. She’s not even remotely pretty, which causes a scandal at first, where the neighboring kingdoms hold annual beauty contests for their princesses. But Rose is popular and fun and clever and kind, and does not mind one bit that she isn’t beautiful. Until she does.
Our other protagonist is Jasper. He is the youngest person to graduate from the Wise Man’s Academy, which would be great anywhere except Couscous. For King Irwin has banned wise men from even showing
their faces in the streets, and has gone so far as to ban wisdom from the kingdom entirely. The people did not really mind all that much, because the men who thought themselves to be so wise and better than everyone really were not. But Jasper really is wise, and realizes that banning wisdom was not a good thing at all. He plots to become the king’s fool, and to slowly impart wisdom to the king without him even realizing it.
Jasper and Rose become the best of friends, and things are going along splendidly, until the handsome Prince Parsley from the Kingdom of Herb comes from across the sea to find a bride. He callously dismisses Rose as a candidate due to her lack of beauty, and this crushes the young princess. Rose wishes to be the
most beautiful woman in the world to win the prince’s heart, and her fairy godmother reluctantly agrees. Her fairy godmother, Eleanor, reminds me of the godmothers in Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series. In fact, this whole book does, a little bit. Eleanor is much wiser than she seems.
Rose does become the most beautiful woman in the world, and goes to the ball, and wins Prince Parsley, all just as she wanted. But she finds that while she thought she wanted the adoration and attention and the prince, things are not as she expected. Her sisters are not happy with her, the prince is extremely shallow and boring, and something seems to be wrong with her friend Jasper. Realizing her mistake, she tries to have her wish revoked, and here we get into the meat of the story.
Reversing a wish is not as easy as granting one, and Rose and Jasper have some realizations to go through and some (mostly internal) journeys to go on. The lessons they learn are lessons that go beyond the story and can resonate with everyone. Eleanor is much more clever than Rose and Jasper realize (at first.)
This is a story that I will share with my nieces (and nephews if they’ll read a princess book). I think I’ll wait until the girls are a bit older and have read (or listened to, or watched) a lot of the classic fairy tales first. This story pokes fun at some of the tropes, and they won’t understand a lot of the humor unless they know the tropes first. But my one nephew, who will soon be 10 and loves to read, might read it and get a kick out of it. I can’t say that I’m as fond of Randy Cecil’s illustrations as I am the actual story, but that’s a personal preference.