Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

 

For those of you who like to celebrate holidays with a good book- here’s a great one for St. Patrick’s Day! We all know that Irish folklore is filled with tales of faeries and supernatural beings. So, although the specific country is not spelled out in Princess of the Wild Swans, it seems an ideal fit for the setting to be in an Irish country. Especially with the fact that the villagers in the book dance Ceili dances together. Cari and I grew up with Ceili dancing as part of our family’s involvement in Irish step dancing. There’s a great site with a thorough history on this form of dance that you can check out at Ceili Dancing. However, there is no mention of kilts in the book, so if you imagination takes you to another land of faeries, kudos for you.

I enjoyed Diane Zahler’s third princess book- although A True Princess is still my favorite out of her three. Many of us avid readers know the basic story of the Princess and the Swans, but for those who need a refresher, here’s a summary: Like so many classic fairytales, this one begins with a princess who’s mother has died, and her father remarries a wicked woman who is a witch. She is determined to get rid of the king’s 11 sons and 1 daughter. Zahler’s book only has 5 sons and the faerie’s in her story are evil, rather than good, but it’s a great re-telling. Zahler clearly knows her folklore and fairytales well. You can check out wikipedia for fuller details if you care to compare the similarities and differences between the two.

Now, here’s a quick review of some of the highlights and things that I loved. The stepmother was one of my favorite characters. Why? Because she was so evil. You can’t have a really good fairytale without some opposition between good and evil. It was interesting to see just how persuasive she could be with her enchantments and silver tongue. My other favorite, of course, was Princess Meriel. It was especially gratifying to see how much she changed from being a spoiled little brat who thought she was entitled to everything, to a much more self-sufficient, thoughtful person. I think this part was so gratifying to me because I work with girls of this age on a regular basis in our religious community and Meriel’s character was spot-on to things I see consistently among this age group. Often my girls can’t see the point of learning a certain skill. Let’s say, for example’s sake, sewing. And so they pout, and roll their eyes, and sigh and sometimes sit there regally refusing to learn. They can’t imagine ever having a need to use such an archaic skill. Heaven forbid they should ever need it. Luckily for them they do not live in the land of faeries and witches and spells! Otherwise, they might find themselves in dire need of this basic skill like Meriel. Hopefully someday, they’ll be grateful for all those things I torture them with- just like Meriel becomes friends with her governess, who was another of my favorite characters.

If you’ve read the book, who is your favorite character? How about your favorite of the three princess books, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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