Reviews for Thirteenth Princess

Booklist Reviews 2009 December #2
After Zita's mother died in childbirth, her father banished his thirteenth daughter to the servants. But working in the kitchen has its advantages: while her sisters remain captive in their moldering castle, red-haired Zita is free to roam the woods with the stable boy, Breckin. Zita tells her story chronologically, beginning with her childhood feelings of abandonment and her joyful reconnection with her older siblings. After her father threatens to fire the old nurse who cares for them, the princesses begin to waste away. Thanks to magic learned from a good witch living in the woods, Zita follows them to a dream palace where they must dance all night. With the help of Breckin--and later, Breckin's handsome soldier brother--she discovers the source of their enchantment. Readers do not need to be familiar with the Grimms' Twelve Dancing Princesses tale to follow the story, but those who are will enjoy the lively reworking of familiar elements. Though the author has published nonfiction for older readers, this is her first novel. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Twelve-year-old Zita narrates this take-off on the classic Grimm tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." After her mother dies in childbirth, red-headed Zita, the unlucky thirteenth princess, is banished to live with the servants. But when her flaxen-haired sisters mysteriously fall ill it takes all of Zita's perspicacity and gumption to save them. A well-rendered retelling. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 January #1
This sweetly written reimagining of "The 12 Dancing Princesses" is for younger readers than the richer and darker Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George (2009). Narrator Zita is the 13th princess of the title, although she lives and works with the servants. Her 12 sisters all have names that begin with A, as did their mother, but her father named her and banished her when her mother died at Zita's birth. Stealthily she sneaks into her sisters' lives in ways her father has forbidden, and they love her, but they are falling prey to exhaustion and illness. A clever stableboy, his soldier brother, a wise woman in the woods and Cook help Zita to unravel the enchantment that holds her sisters. Delicious descriptions of gowns and (worn-out) slippers, teas and sweetmeats, pink castle and dark forest make up for the pale villains, incomplete magic and the occasional obviousness of the story's fairy-tale skeleton. (Fairy tale/fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 January #3

Reworking the familiar ground of The Twelve Dancing Princesses into a story of resourcefulness and a loving heart, Zahler's debut deftly and thoughtfully embellishes the tale's classic elements. Banished to the life of a serving girl in the royal palace after her mother died in childbirth, Zita, at age seven, is shocked to learn she is the 13th daughter of harsh King Aricin. The sisters cherish Zita's stealthy visits to their bedroom via a hidden dumbwaiter, and despite the princesses' inability to secure husbands (they are rendered mute in the presence of suitors), all seems well until Zita turns 12 and her sisters sicken and take to their beds. As the princesses grow paler and more feeble, Zita's only clues are her sisters' mysteriously worn-out shoes. Suspecting evil magic, Zita enlists her friends--Breckin the stable boy, his soldier brother Milek, and Babette the forest witch--to help her. Zahler takes a light story and gives it gratifying depth, rounding out the characters and their motivations without betraying the source material and wrapping it all together in a graceful and cohesive romantic drama. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 March

Gr 4-8--Though clearly based on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," this addition to the burgeoning field of fairy-tale novelizations alters the original tale more than most others. It is the youngest--13th--sister, rather than a visiting prince, who discovers why the princesses are wearing out their shoes (and suffering from exhaustion). Zahler has created this sister and her complicated backstory with somewhat uneven success. For the first seven years of her life, Zita's been banished to the kitchen of the very palace where (unbeknownst to her) her father and sisters dwell. Her father evidently hates her because she was his last attempt at fathering a male heir. After Cook spills the beans regarding her royal lineage, Zita ventures to have a clandestine sisterly relationship with the older girls, sneaking into their room at night and returning to the kitchen each morning. Something is clearly ailing her sisters, though, and Zita's friendships with a stable groom and a reclusive old woman in the woods give her the assistance and skills she needs to break through the destructive enchantment that's harming them. She earns the recognition and love of the king and--of course--the love of the stable groom, and they all live, just as you'd expect, happily ever after. In the hands of masters like Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine, fairy-tale expansions gain depth and nuance. Zahler's retelling doesn't fully humanize its characters. She adds complexity without much resonance, making her book entertaining, but not compelling.--Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY

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