A fresh take on a well-loved fairy tale (A TRUE PRINCESS by Diane Zahler)

A TRUE PRINCESS is a fresh take on a well-loved fairy tale.  It was so cleverly written that it wasn’t until near the end that I finally figured out which fairy tale it was.

Lilia is treated badly by her foster mother because she is an orphan. While her adoptive family (kind father, hard mother, and siblings Kai and Karina) sit at table to eat their meals, Lilia is forced to perch on a stool in the ashes of the fireplace. (No, this is not CINDERELLA.)

Eavesdropping one evening, Lilia hears her foster mother discussing what they will do once the new baby is born. It turns out that she is the father’s second wife, and thus stepmother to Kai & Karina who are both in their teens. I am not sure how old Lilia is, but I believe she is a little younger, on the cusp of being a teen. In any event, the stepmother’s plan is to sell Lilia off to a cruel miller to be his servant, because they are so poor one child must make way for another, and in any case, isn’t Lilia a piece of wasted space? The child makes lumpy porridge, forgets half her chores, does the other half badly and is another mouth to feed and another body to clothe.

Horrified by these plans, Lilia decides to leave. Secretly. In the middle of the night. Picking up a finely woven blanket from the new baby’s cradle (which the stepmother claims she made) Lilia sets off for the North, because she was found floating in a basket, in a curl of water, in a river that falls from the mountains to the north. She hasn’t gone far, however, before Kai & Karina catch up with her. They hate their stepmother, and want to help Lilia on her journey back to her homeland.

I won’t say more so as not to spoil it for those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading this volume. Suffice to say this is a well-plotted, well-crafted story, with interesting young people you will come to care about. Five stars.