When Raab Associates sent me copies of Princess Nevermore and its sequel Cam's Quest, I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic. I'm not a big fan of what I'll call "traditional fantasy", with princesses, magic spells, knights, and castles. Princess Nevermore has a picture of a beautiful, traditionally garbed princess on the cover, and starts in a Wizard's chamber, with a wishing pool and a wizard's apprentice. I was not optimistic. However, upon beginning to read, it rapidly became clear that this is much more than a traditional fantasy.
Princess Quinn lives in Mandria, a magical kingdom set beneath the surface of the earth. Her only view of the world above is through the water of a magic wishing pool, located above the chamber of the famous wizard Melikar. Seeking excitement, Quinn and her friend Cam (the Wizard's Apprentice) attempt a spell to send them to "Outer Earth". Through a mishap, only Quinn is sent, leaving Cam to face the wrath of the Wizard, and Quinn to face a completely unfamiliar world alone.
For me, the most captivating aspect of the book is the humorous situations that ensue due to Quinn's very different mores and expectations from those in Outer Earth (what would appear as ordinary, modern-day life for us). She's baffled by the revealing clothes that people wear, the miracle of electric light, and the lack of defined protocol in human interactions. For example, here is Quinn's take on an amusement park:
"Another contraption looked like a giant spider, but at the end of each skinny leg was a basket full of people, spinning and calling out to each other.
From every direction, shouts and screams seemed to shake the air. Why were these people being punished? What horrible crimes had they committed?
Quinn's fear made her step behind a fountain to observe and not be seen. This must be an Outer-Earth prison. How barbaric!"
Fortunately, Quinn finds a safe haven in the home of an elderly man mysteriously connected to Mandria, with two teenage grandchildren. She attends high school (filled with mysterious scenarios to her), falls in love, copes with jealousy, and encounters a dangerous enemy. Meanwhile, back in Mandria, Cam is mourning Quinn's absence, and sending her mental messages to help find her way back home.
There is magic to this story, but it's not enough to overwhelm the tale. The magic is more a vehicle to offer hints of wonder for the reader, and to cause trouble for Quinn. It's more a time travel story than a story of magic, really. Quinn could almost be any Medieval princess, mysteriously transported to a modern-day high school. The juxtaposition of her Medieval phrases and sensibilities and those of the modern kids offers entertainment, and in some cases enlightenment.
I found Quinn to be a likable, realistically flawed heroine. She's impetuous, and the tiniest bit vain (a consequence of her pampered upbringing). She made me laugh, and I cared what happened to her. I appreciated and cared about Cam, back in Mandria, too. And when I got to the end of the book, I wanted to read more. That's always a strong indicator for me of a satisfying read. Fortunately, I have Cam's Quest waiting on my nightstand.
Although this is listed as a middle grade fiction title (ages 9 to 12), it features dating, and even falling in love. I think that this content makes it appropriate for middle school kids up to age 14 or so. Princess Nevermore should please fans of fantasy, as well as fans of historical fiction. It's a relatively quick read, not as plot-complex as the Harry Potter books and other epic fantasies, but one that will leave readers wanting more.
Book: Princess Nevermore
Author: Dian Curtis Regan. See also the Princess Nevermore fan site and a Cynsations interview with Dian.
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Original Publication Date: December 2006 (for this updated and expanded edition, originally published in 1995 by Scholastic)
Age Range: 10-14
Source of Book: Review copy from Raab Associates
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.