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Posted May 29, 2013
I received a review copy of this book from the author, but am co
I received a review copy of this book from the author, but am completely honest in my opinion.
Every so often, I read a middle grade book that completely reawakens my inner 10-year-old. This is one of those books--the sort I would have read repeatedly until I memorized it, drawn fan art of, and likely daydreamed myself into. I approached the book thinking that it looked good, but I didn't expect to like it quite so much.
What makes this book stand out?
Foremost is the main character, Tilda. She's a princess, but not in a glamorous Disney kind of way. She's been raised to take care of her holdings, to listen to her people's grievances, and write manuscripts--and that's her greatest love. Tilda was born with a twisted foot and has difficulty moving, and feels shunned by many people because of it. She's learned to be rather cold, and somewhat selfish, just to avoid the emotional pain. Only her handmaiden Judith, friend Parz, and a few adults see her as she really is.
Something that surprised me from the start was the amount of tension. A lot of bad things happen. The kids make bad choices, as do the adults around them. As an adult, I struggle with some kids' books because I find them too predictable. <i>Handbook</i>
surprised me at every turn, and that compelled me to keep turning pages so I could find out what happened next. I also loved historical fiction as a child, and this book blends fantasy and European history in a very appealing way.
Ah, and then there was the biggest surprise of all, the one that made my inner 10-year-old squeal with delight: the magical horses. I won't say any more, as I don't want to delve into spoiler territory, but I could have so seen myself as a kid in a mad scramble for my colored pencils so I could draw these magnificent characters. I'm smiling now to even think of it.
Really, I think that's the grandest praise I can foist upon this book: it made me feel like a kid again.
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Posted April 2, 2014
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