THE RED CASTLE & THE BLUE
by Wendy Marech
Middle Grade Fantasy / Fairy Tale
When Azula of the blue castle is kidnapped by a red prince looking for a bride, she’s supposed to be delighted. Isn’t this what every princess wants?
Well, no. Not this one.
What is there to do, then, but escape? So begins a series of adventures involving a masked man, a knight searching for a mission, two spies in disguise, and a princess who begins to see that fancy clothes and jewels and fine food aren’t all they’ve been cracked up to be. Indeed, when Azula finally makes her way home, she discovers that the life she has returned to may no longer be the life she wants.
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With the magic of a traditional fairy tale surrounding princesses, princes and knights, this read sweeps away, and then adds some very surprising twists and modern day messages of empowerment.
Azura is a beautiful princess...because most princesses are...and lives in the Blue Castle. Three princes live over a mountain and a little farther away in the Red Castle. One of the older princes decides he wants to marry Azura simply because he's heard she's beautiful and he has to have her. The solution—kidnapping. Azura finds herself in the Red Castle with two princes, who don't really know what they're doing or how to tell their parents what they've done. And so starts a humorous but also large personal growth for Azura and a tale which shows what a true princess might be like.
While starting with a warm, very familiar 'Once Upon A Time...' the book quickly lets the more zesty narrator take control and show that this won't be a usual fairy tale, and yet, in some ways, it still is. It's a lovely and endearing mix which allows princess dreams to thrive, while tossing in the spice of humor and a more modern way of thinking. The narrator throws in comments constantly—a bit too much, at times—and definitely gives the tale a spark. There's also a pinch of quirkiness, which a reader can love or hate. The story takes place long ago or far away in a style and time of castles, but then, out of the blue a microphone or some other modern hint. It definitely adds an original touch.
Azura goes through wonderful change. Starting out as a naive princess who behaves as perfect princesses all should behave (and with a tiny dash of curiosity which gets her in trouble in the first place), she absorbs the adventures and opens herself up to the vast possibilities around her. The change is very quick, but, on the other hand, it needs to be and fits her nicely. She still carries the proper princess aura but becomes very self-assured and gains much more purpose. It's an empowering message.
As an extra treat, there are colorful illustrations the entire way through—nearly one every time the page is flipped. This is always a bonus in my book as even slightly older readers will enjoy these.
Friends of fairy tales, princesses and spunky humor will enjoy this one.
You can read the first chapter here!
And here she is...
Though she lives in Brooklyn, Wendy Marech sometimes wishes she could wake up by a lake. A graduate of Yale and Brown, she’s written fiction, non-fiction, adult, children’s, and everything in between, including a nationally syndicated newspaper column. She owns more books than she should, loves snow and ice cream, and occasionally believes she was born a century too late.