Thursday, September 06, 2007
The Princess and the Hound
Harrison, Mette Ivie. 2007. The Princess and the Hound.
If you've been reading this blog long, you've probably guessed that the more I love a book, the harder it is for me to express it clearly. This book had me at hello. I mean, I was hooked from the very beginning. I was under Harrison's magic spell immediately. Her writing, her style, is just unbelievable. The Princess and the Hound reads like a fairy tale--magic spells and all. It's enchanting. It's exciting. It's ever-so-good. You'd think that with the word "Princess" in the title, it would be narrated by a girl--a princess. You would think that it would be a love story of how a princess is swept off her feet by a prince from a neighboring country and who goes on to live happily ever after. But that is not this story. It is narrated by George. A prince. The story begins when he is quite young--probably four or five--and continues through his teen years. It is a story of a kingdom in turmoil. Those with animal magic are forced to live hidden, secret lives. Accused of being "evil" and "unnatural" by their animals for being able to talk to animals and communicate with them, their very lives are at stake if they are discovered. To possess animal magic is to be condemned to die a painful death. George and his mother, the Queen, shared a secret. Both have the magic. Both hide the magic. But it was in hiding the magic, in being untrue to herself, that the Queen succumbed to a terrible fever and died. George doesn't want to die, but he doesn't want to give himself over to the magic either. He wants to control it. Hide it. Suppress it as much as possible.
So far I'm doing an absolute horrible job in sharing what this story is all about. One boy, a prince, one girl, a princess. Two kingdoms trying to keep peace. An arranged marriage. Those are the bare facts without embellishment. George and the princess, Beatrice, have their own secrets, hurts, fears, worries. Each one has reasons to mistrust others and hide their "true" selves and true thoughts and feelings. It is in this gradual revealing to one another that all unfolds and the magic released to do its healing.
Love. Loss. Pain. Confusion. Fear. Hope. Forgiveness. Compassion. Justice. This book has it all.