Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blog Tour: True Princess by Diane Zahler

Diane Zahler's first fairy tale retelling, Thirteenth Princess, has been a popular choice at my library. It's got a great plot, fantastic characters, and who wouldn't love that cover? I've been looking forward to her new fairy tale retelling, True Princess, especially after I found out it's full of Scandinavian folklore and fairy tale elements, a favorite area of interest to me.

What's True Princess all about? "Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful! Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Lilia refuses to accept that dreadful fate, and with her best friend Kai and his sister Karina beside her, she heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf-King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.

So, I asked Diane if she could tell us a little more about the Scandinavian influences and elements in this fun story:

A True-ly Scandinavian Princess

A True Princess is based on “The Princess and the Pea,” by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish writer. I’m half Norwegian, so I was intrigued by the idea of setting my story in an imaginary Scandinavia – someplace true both to Andersen’s roots and to my own. Years ago I visited my great-uncle Johann’s dairy farm, north of the Arctic Circle, and that location has lived in my imagination ever since. The landscape of Norway is incredible – fjords and forests of fir trees, glaciers and craggy mountains. It’s deeply romantic and a little scary at the same time, and to me it seemed like a place where magic could happen at any moment. It was exactly the right setting for A True Princess.

When I was in the early stages of writing, my husband, a professor of English literature, was teaching a poetry course. One of the poems he was doing was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “The Erl-King” (“Der Erlkonig”), which I had never read before. It’s a creepy poem about an evil elf. I loved the idea of malicious elves – I had to put the Elf-King into the story. My Elf-King isn’t as wicked as the one in the poem. He’s cruel, careless, selfish – but he’s not as all-powerful as he thinks he is! I found out that the basis for the poem was a Danish legend, so it fit very neatly into the Scandinavian theme of the book. In my research of Norwegian myth and legend, I came across the nisses, or tomtes, mischievous sprites who attach themselves to households where they do either good or ill, depending on their whims. And I read about Odin, the king of the Norse gods, and his fearsome Hunt, which brought disaster or death to those who saw it. Both the nisses and Odin are vital characters in the story.

In keeping with the Scandinavian setting, I gave all my characters Scandinavian names – Lilia, my heroine; Jorgen and Ylva, the shepherd and his wife; Kai and Karina, Jorgen’ children; Prince Tycho and his courtiers Sir Erlend and Sir Ivar. Even Kai’s dog, Ove, has a Scandinavian name. The locations, too -- Dalir, Bitra Forest, and Gilsa --I found by looking up medieval Scandinavian place names. Thank goodness for the Internet!

So many very different do they all fit together? Perfectly! The story blends the odd little creatures of Scandinavian folklore, such as the nisses, with the dreadful elegance of the Elf-King and Odin's Hunt. Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with their emphasis on whimsy, humor, and always a hint of sorrow, make a perfect backdrop, weaving together all the very different folkloric elements. As an adult reader, some of the situations seem a little too easy - Lilia's inner royalty, Karina's sudden love. But it's easy to put that aside and bring out my inner 11 year old (at least for me) and enjoy the story for its delightful fairy tale quality, humor, and adventure. This is the perfect choice for 9 -12 girls looking for a little innocent romance and a good dose of fairy tale fantasy with some smart and realistic female heroines.

Verdict: A must for your fairy tale retellings in the juvenile area. Especially recommended because it's a readable length and has a lot of different elements to please a variety of readers.

ISBN: 9780061825019; Published February 2011 by HarperCollins; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library.

Check out all the other stops on the True Princess Blog Tour! Several of them are doing a giveaway, so don't miss your chance to own True Princess!

February 1, The Compulsive Reader
February 2, The Brain Lair
February 3, Galleysmith
February 4, Write for a Reader
February 5, The Cozy Reader
February 6, Libri Dilectio
February 7, Tales from the Rushmore Kid
February 8, Green Bean Teen Queen
February 8, Mother Daughter Book Club
February 9, There's a Book
February 10, Mrs. V's Reviews
February 11, The Cazzy Files
February 11, Sonder Books
February 12, BookScoops


Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Thanks for this interview, Jennifer and Diane! I was already looking forward to A True Princess but the Scandinavian elements in the story have bumped it up to the top of my list. I love the covers, too.

Diane said...

I'm so glad you like the cover! People either love it or hate it -- the responses tend to be extreme. I think it's eyecatching and very different. Hope you enjoy the book!

Jennifer said...

I haven't heard from anyone who hates it - I guess some people might think it's too "pretty" but the group of girls at my library who like retold fairy tales LOVE the pretty covers!