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*Thornspell* by Helen Lowe- young readers fantasy book review
by Helen Lowe
Ages 9-12 320 pages Knopf September 2008 Hardcover    

Princess themes never seem to tire, and Sleeping Beauty is one that seems to shine brighter than others. Interestingly, unlike most renditions of any of the fabled princess tales in which the princess is the star protagonist, Thornspell actually brings to life the valiant prince destined to save the princess from her evil and powerful foe.

Crown prince Sigismund is kept hidden in a castle behind locked gates that appear to never open and surrounded by magical woods that no living soul dare enter. Many long years before his birth, an edict was passed down that no one was to enter those woods. Something mysterious is alive deep within them, and Sigismund often yearns to sneak into their shadowed depths and find out what is hidden inside them.

Not until an unexpected visitor passes by his outer gates does Sigismundís destined future began to reveal itself. She is the Margravine zu Malvolin, and her sights are on the castle within the woods where a certain young princess is nearing the end of her enchanted sleep - a sleep the Malvolin had intended to be a death nearly one hundred years ago.

Sigismundís meeting with Malvolin is the turning point in his youth. The King sends to him a distant relative named Balisan, a knight from the Paladinates and well-versed in knowledge, fighting, protection, and magic of the faie. Sigismund is destined to put an end to the enchanted sleep of the princess, and he will need protection as well as training.

As events begin to unfold, an unexpected twist finds a guest joining him on the journey: Syrica, the beautiful faie responsible for changing the spell of death into sleep. Only then does Sigismund's realization of the battle before him spins into a terrifying reality. Much more than a sleeping beauty and a castle in the woods are at stake. The well-matched powers and interconnected thread between the twin faie sisters may make their battle a knot of impossible outs. The survival of worlds and realms and lives may fall on the role Sigismund has yet to play and the strength he has among the woven faie spells.

Lowe does a spectacular job of re-creating a "Sleeping Beauty" tale actually worth investing the time and energy into reading. The dazzling plot, phenomenal characters, depth, and creativity keep readers intrigued from start to finish. Itís a shame there isn't another installment in the Sleeping Beauty classic. Perhaps our young readers will be lucky enough to have Lowe approach some of the other misguided fabled princess tales in the same manner.

Thornspell is for readers fond of fairies, princes, princesses, sword fights, castles, and magic.

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