The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler (Published by HarperCollins, February 2, 2010)
For as long as she can remember, all Zita knew was the life of a servant girl in the castle of the harsh King Aricin. But when she is seven years old, she learns a secret that changes her life forever: she is the youngest daughter of the king, banished to the servant’s quarters after her birth. And over the next four years, she learns the reasons why: her father only wanted sons, and when his wife died giving birth to their thirteenth daughter, he wanted nothing to do with the newborn Zita and sent her off to be cared for and live among the palace servants. But Zita’s twelve older sisters know the truth, and still love her. When they realize that she has learned the truth, they decide to secretly spend time with her, which brings much happiness to Zita’s dreary life.
Shortly after Zita’s twelfth birthday, however, strange things begin to happen to the princesses, causing Zita to be deeply worried for her sisters. First, they are unable to speak in the presence of suitors. Then, they begin to become very tired and pale, but show no visible signs of illness. And though they spend all day resting in the palace, their shoes are mysteriously worn through. Zita soon suspects someone may be using magic against the princesses. Aided by her best friend Breckin, a stable boy at the castle, and Babette, a kind witch who lives in the nearby woods, Zita sets out to solve the mystery and save her sisters.
The Thirteenth Princess is a delightful middle grade retelling of the story “The Twelve Dancing Princesses," filled with mystery, adventure, magic, and a bit of romance. It is sure to be enjoyed by young girls who love books by Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale, and by anyone who loves fairy tale retellings. Zita is a charming heroine, and readers will cheer her on during her quest to save her sisters. This book is the first by debut author Diane Zahler, and I look forward to reading more from this promising new writer.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.