The Two Princesses of Bamarre
We love female protagonists in fantasy stories.
I don’t mean the “damsel in distress” trope; not at all. I mean the strong, badass women who don’t sit around waiting for rescue but face danger head-on. Who are outspoken and rebellious and fun. Like Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen and Annabeth Chase.
Gail Carson Levine has written stories like that. Ella Enchanted, perhaps one of the first modern Cinderella retellings that shows her as anything but an incompetent ninny, is a classic. Ella in the book is outspoken and adventurous and strong.
And those are awesome girls we look up to and admire and want to be like.
But a lot of us are not like them. We’re quieter. We have our insecurities. We don’t break rules. Have you ever wondered where those stories are; the ones with fictional introverts like us saving the day? The books where we quiet girls are also not damsels in distress? Where we don’t wait for rescue but get past our fears because we have to?
Well, I never wondered anything of the sort. I didn’t give it a thought. But when I read this piece on Book Riot, I simply had to pick up The Two Princesses of Bamarre. It amazed me that such a book even existed; where a timid princess goes on an adventure. It took me a while to get to the book, so it was a much-awaited read for me.
What the book is about:
The Two Princesses of Bamarre is the story of, you guessed it – two princesses.
Princess Addie is shy, quiet, and timid; afraid of the smallest things. Meryl, her sister, is bold and outspoken and dreams of battling monsters like gryphons and dragons and ogres to find the cure to Bamarre’s most deadly and mysterious disease – the Gray Death.
And Addie? In her own words:
”I was no hero. The dearest wishes of my heart were for safety and tranquillity. The world was a perilous place, wrong for the likes of me.”
Meryl is her protector, her saviour. Addie can’t bear the thought of her life when Meryl would finally go adventuring. And they’re happy.
Until, one day, Meryl catches the Gray Death. When their father doesn’t succeed in finding the cure, Addie realises that it’s now up to her. She has to brave all the monsters and find the cure before her sister is gone forever.
The book follows her adventures and how she overcomes her fears to find the cure.
Doesn’t it sound perfect? A timid girl who’s afraid of her own shadow, battling monsters because she has an obligation? Doing what’s right, not because she likes it, but because she’s the only one who can?
Well, it is an amazing book. It has all the elements for it – adventure, an amazingly relatable heroine, an insurmountable challenge…
And Gail Carson Levine is an amazing author. She has the voice of a timid young girl of sixteen down to the “T”. We see Addie growing right before our eyes, from a fearful, shy girl to a less fearful, still shy young woman.
And that’s perfect. I absolutely loved the fact that even after her adventure, Addie doesn’t change, not really. At her core, she’s still the same quiet, introverted girl who’d rather sit down at home with her embroidery than go out and fight monsters. As she says:
“She [Meryl] wanted to battle monsters for the adventure of it. I wanted to defeat them for the peace that would follow.”
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Anyway…the point is, at no point in the book does she “realise” that she is actually very bold and all it took to “find herself” was overcoming her fear of spiders. Life doesn’t work that way, after all. The only thing that changes during the adventure is that she stops fearing monsters. She knows how to defeat them and she has confidence that she can do it again. That’s all.
It was wonderful.
But somehow, it didn’t quite “click” with me. I’m not really sure why. Maybe my expectations were too high; maybe the language was better suited to younger readers. Or maybe it was something else. But I didn’t love the book. Sure, I liked it and it made me feel great.
But when I really love a book, I just simply can’t put it down! This one wasn’t like that. I read it over several days and it just didn’t grip me as my favourite stories usually do. I can’t pinpoint the reason, but in the epic words of John in Sherlock, “It is what it is.”
If you’re someone who relates to the whole timid thing, this is definitely worth a read. I recommend it to everyone who likes fantasy and is tired of reading the same tropes. This is a very unique plot and that deserves appreciation.
I especially recommend it to beginner readers because it’s not very long and quite easy to read.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't a brilliant book!