Author: Diane Zahler
Released: February 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Zita is not an ordinary servant girl—she’s the thirteenth daughter of a king who wanted only sons. When she was born, Zita’s father banished her to the servants’ quarters to work in the kitchens, where she can only communicate with her royal sisters in secret.
Then, after Zita’s twelfth birthday, the princesses all fall mysteriously ill. The only clue is their strangely worn and tattered shoes. With the help of her friends—Breckin the stable boy, Babette the witch, and Milek the soldier—Zita follows her bewitched sisters into a magical world of endless dancing and dreams. But something more sinister is afoot—and unless Zita and her friends can break the curse, the twelve princesses will surely dance to their deaths.
A classic fairy tale with a bold twist, The Thirteenth Princess tells the unforgettable story of a magical castle, true love, spellbound princesses—and the young girl determined to save them all.
The Thirteenth Princess is a captivating rethinking of The Twelve Dancing Princesses tale. Zahler skillfully combines the old fairy tale with new material to make the story seem fresh. Think you know the tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses? Well, think again.
From the get go, this novel held my attention with its flowing writing and detailed scenery. I could easily picture this breathtaking world that Zahler has created. The plot flowed along at a nice even pace with plenty of interesting characters sprinkled in. Zita is not your average servant, she is actually the 13th daughter of the King who in a fit of rage banished her to live with the servants. Upon her seventh birthday, Zita uncovers the secret truth behind her birthday.
Zita is a lively character filled with curiosity and love. She loves the servants, her new found sisters, and even had an appreciation for the father that banished her. To paraphrase a few characters, she has the best of both worlds. She understands what it means to be a servant, yet has the possibly to truly be a princess. In contrast to Zita are her twelve sisters. While the whole of them play a significant role in the overall plot, I found it very hard to distinguish each from one another. I am sure that every single one of them having a name that begins with “A” does not help much. I applaud Zahler for attempting to give each of the twelve sisters a certain characteristic to help identify them, but in the end, this did not help me too much. Many of them just blend into the background, never to be heard from again.
While Zita’s world is fully explored, the world of the twelve dancing princesses does not get the same treatment. The novel focuses mainly on Zita, her life, and her attempt to rescue her sisters. Personally, I enjoyed Zahler’s descriptions; however, I wish there had been more. The discovery of this world and its happenings take place later in the novel, and seem almost rushed.
Although, I wish a few things had been a bit different, this is a highly enjoyable tale for the fairy tale lovers of all ages. Zahler offers readers a unique take on a sometimes otherwise flat fairy tale. This is a wonderful novel for middle school readers, and for those who enjoy reads with a pinch of magic, love, and discovery.