Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: Princess of the Silver Woods

Title: Princess of the Silver Woods
Author: Jessica Day George
Genre: Fantasy/ Fairytale retelling
Rating: 5

Princess of the Silver Woods is the third book in a fairytale retelling series that Jessica Day George has been penning. George, author of some of my favorite titles like Dragon Slippers, and her recent children's novel Tuesdays at the Castle, is a beautiful talent in the world of fantasy.

Like Princess of the Midnight Ball, a novelization of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and its sequel Princess of Glass, a somewhat more subtle version of the classic Cinderella; Princess of the Silver Woods is a fairytale done over, refurnished, and painted over with colorful and lush strokes. Which classic tale this novel embodies is made clear by the summary in the front pages: “When Petunia, youngest of the dancing princesses, is ambushed by bandits in wolf masks on her way to visit and elderly neighbor, the line between enemies and friends becomes blurred...” It is made even more apparent by the sweeping red cloak which Petunia wears throughout the story.

Silver Woods is a story not unlike Midnight Ball, but it's interesting to see where the author has chosen to take her characters in these three novels. First, they are at home in the palace, yet swept to a dark and cursed land of enchantments in the space of a night. In Glass, the central character is in a foreign court, with a change in the peoples and customs. Here, the story delves into the more mystic qualities of the natural setting surrounding Petunia's home: the wild and the woods between her palace and the estate of a widowed duchess.

It mirrors the changes some of George's other stories have gone through: Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Dragon Spear visited the alternating worlds of dragon caverns, political courts, and mysterious islands. That being said, I think this series of three is better than the Dragon trio. While Midnight Ball is certainly my own favorite, the latter two books have kept up the intrigue and the momentum, something which seemed to slip in the Dragon books.

As for the story itself, I loved the way George played with the original tale to glean her own, although I was wondering exactly where the typical 'red riding hood' feel would come in about halfway through. I was not disappointed. The rich way the common fairytale is woven into a new craft is cause for marveling, and among those writers who rework the old tales into their own, Jessica Day George is one of the best.

Con's to the story are very few: There is some brief language. I know people have heard me rant about language in books, but as this is not a children's work, I show a great deal more leniency in that area.

Secondly there is the small issue that many of George's male characters, specifically those who are the 'love interests', appear to be cut from the same cloth. They share some remarkable similarities in character and while their characters are wonderful the first time you come across them, they become less so once you've met them a third time—especially if more than one of these characters then appears together, as has happened in Silver Woods. Although I may be exaggerating this effect, the bandit Oliver shares more than a passing resemblance to the person of the gardener Galen, from Midnight Ball, and both of them are conspicuously similar to Prince Luka from the Dragon books.

Without doubt, George is one of my favorite authors to read and I heartily recommend Princess of the Silver Woods, as well as the other two titles in this series.

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