keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Two Princesses of Bamarre
by Gail Carson Levine
293 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

Twin princesses Meryl and Addie are close opposites; timid Addie depends wholly on Meryl's bravery. When Meryl falls ill with the cursed, fatal Gray Death, cowardly Addie must find her courage in order to save her beloved sister.

After finishing Carol Berg's Revelation and feeling like I'd been hit with a sledgehammer, I had to cool down. So I turned to reread a childhood favorite. The Two Princesses of Bamarre is not my favorite of Levine's novels--Ella Enchanted remains the only one developed enough beyond folkish fairy-tale to touch me to tears--but it was sufficiently light, breezy, and satisfying. On this second read, I much admired the dragons and focused less on Addie and Meryl, who serve as wonderful childhood role models. This is a fable in truth, with obvious morals, but nonetheless offered with a light touch.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Gail Carson Levine
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

From the cover blurb, I had great hope for Levine's newest release. Despite their younger core audience, I loved Ella Enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. And the premise of Ever excited me so much: Kezi is a talented weaver and dancer raised in Hyte, a country following a monogamous religion worshipping Admat. Olus is the youngest Akkan god yearning for mortal companionship. They fall in love and must overcome the ultimate sacrifice--death--to be together. Plus I had heard hints of faith being a major theme, with Kezi becoming agnostic at the end. I'm not so sure about that last part, alas. Ever is frustratingly simplistic in both construction and content.

To be fair, Levine doesn't hide the book's intent or style. On the first page, Kezi's style is set forth--simple, plain, concise. This can work, and maybe it works for other readers, for me it became irritating because I wanted more depth and less choppy skimming over the surface. I enjoyed the religious themes, as expected, but not as much as I expected. I enjoyed the fairytale/divine myth format, but I was unsatisfied by the resolution; Kezi didn't give up or lose anything permanent and she lacks a sense of true agency throughout the book. It's a quick and competent read--however, I expected much more from Levine, especially with this amazing premise. Essentially, I wish this had been an older YA or adult novel instead of younger YA skewing to middle-grade. That's not Levine's fault but she definitely could have done better even within genre and age restraints.

ETA: And as [ profile] meganbmoore mentions, it's narrated in first-person present tense, if that's an issue. I tend to slip into the narrative easily and don't notice the POV unless it's really jarring, so I forgot to note it.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Apparently I can't write anything these days without sounding pretentious, so I've given up trying. Sigh. Just a word of warning, as "anything" includes my miniature book reviews.

161 pages (hardcover)

This concise little book is a creative writing guide for the young adult audience that still manages to pack in much worthy advice. Each chapter is only a few pages, covering topics from characterization to humor to fairytale retelling (a specialty of Levine's). The writing prompts were very useful, though again tailored for YA. Levine tells the reader repeatedly to have fun and save every word written. She also delves into how she worked through issues in her published novels, such as Ella Enchanted (a Newbery Honor winnter) and Dave at Night.

I've always loved Levine's expansion and dramatization of different fairytales--Ella Enchanted was my first "favorite book." Her style doesn't show as much in this nonfiction work, but I found it easy to read past the simple language for real gems about the art of writing. Levine even names one chapter "Suffer!" and that alone gives her a thumbs-up. What better advice for aspiring young writers? I only wish this book had existed a few years ago, when I first started writing stories.

Overall, Writing Magic would be a great resource for writers of all ages, though more as a quick read than a vital reference. The cover design is simply magical, and you all know how I'm a sucker for pretty covers.


keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

January 2011



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