Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Princess and the Snowbird by Mette Ivie Harrison -- Young Adult Fairy Tale/Fantasy
This is the third book in a trilogy that begins with The Princess and the Hound. This is the story of a Snowbird who is the last of his kind, of Liva, the daughter of the hound and the bear and Jens, a human boy born without magic. Choosing to remain in animal form, Liva's parents have given her most of their magic, retaining enough to survive and enough for the bear to help those who are being persecuted for having the aur-magic. Liva has more aur-magic than anyone. She can feel it all around her and inside of her. It's who she is and part of her destiny. She's one with the animals and the forest and thinks little about humans until a chance encounter with a human boy causes a connection she hadn't thought possible. Jens lives in a village where tehr-magic is prized and aur-magic is hated. Humans claim to have conquered animals and the forest and by their superiority will prevail over the wild, untamed world. Most men of the village use their magic to torture and kill animals, but Jens, born without any kind of magic at all, can't understand why this behavior is so appealing. When he first sees Liva in animal form, he senses her kindness and warmth and feels connected to her. When Liva and Jens next encounter each other they are a little older and Liva is searching for her missing father while Jens is struggling to become a man. The connection between the boy with no magic and the girl with so much remains strong. Each has a unique gift which will help them save the world they both love. The young adults must fight the evil that threatens to destroy the magic in the land and determine their own identities as adults. This is a wonderfully written coming-of-age story set in the world begun in the Princess and the Hound. The first half of the book slowly sets the story that forms the connection between Liva and Jens. It's a little slow without much plot but readers of The Princess and the Bear will like reading about what happened to them. The second half of the book deals with the plot to rid the world of magic. It's very fast-paced but just right for the story. I especially liked the ending because it wasn't rushed and it was very appropriate for the target age group and for the story. The romance is stronger in this book than the previous too and so sweet it will make you say "aww!" I love the way the characters grow up and come into their own and how they deal with the gifts they've been given or not given. If you choose to take away a message in the story, it's very timely and relevant, but subtle and not heavy handed in any way. The title is a bit misleading because it doesn't match the plot in the way that the previous two books did. I really liked this book and love the trilogy as a whole and would definitely recommend them to young adults and adults both.

The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry -- YA Historical Fiction
In 12th century Normandy (now part of France), Joan is the youngest daughter of King Henry II of England and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. At nearly 7 years old, Joan loves her parents and adores her older brothers but hates the rivalry between them. When a handsome young knight rescues Joan and her doll from bullies, she develops a crush on the young Lord Raymond. Lord Raymond's father, the Duke of Toulouse is an enemy who seeks to further drive apart the already estranged Eleanor and Henry. Joan then becomes caught in the middle of a war between family members and feels torn in her loyalties. By the age of ten, she has become a pawn in her parents' struggle over land and power which results in her marriage to King William of Sicily. Life in Sicily is vastly different from the Norman customs Joan is used to. Her status of queen is jeopardized by a jealous rival and her ability to bear an heir for Sicily. William is an indifferent husband and in Joan's eyes, a weak ruler. Joan grows up in the midst of tumultuous world politics and again becomes a political pawn. This time she is determined to save her home in her own way. Joan also comes to realize that her parents made mistakes and those mistakes have colored her view of personal relationships and she can not be truly fulfilled until she realizes her own feelings. This fictionalized biography covers Joan's life from the age of six until her mid-20s and summarizes the political situation of Joan's home and adopted country as well as describing the Crusades. Much of the action is summarized and told directly to the reader rather than having the reader be a part of the action, which bored me. I skipped over most of the war parts because I wanted to know more about Joan and what she was thinking and feeling. Joan is a sympathetic character and struggles to live her own life, free of the men who control her. She seems more believable as a young adult than as a child. Her childhood dialogue sounds too much like an adult. As she grows older, she is more sympathetic and I wanted her to be happy but wasn't satisfied with the choice she was given. Not one of the other characters were likable. They are all ambitious, greedy and the men all enjoy making war and carousing, which I suppose is what men did back then but I didn't like it. This book is not for young children or the faint of heart. The descriptions aren't too graphic and the emphasis is mostly on Joan's thoughts, feelings and actions. I don't know much about this time period so I can't evaluate the accuracy of the story. It seems believable enough. It reminds me a lot of Carolyn Meyer's Young Royals series. I didn't really care for this story. I found it boring in many points and had a hard time finishing it. I would recommend it only to the most ardent history buffs of the period ages 13 and up.

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