Jean Ferris, Author . Harcourt $17 (272p) ISBN 978-0-15-216791-2

In a gratifying fantasy that contains elements of classic fairy tales, Ferris (Love Among the Walnuts) breathes new life into archetypal characters by adding unexpected and often humorous dimensions to their personalities. The protagonist, Christian, has been raised in the forest by a troll named Edric. As he nears manhood, Christian decides it is time to see the world—or at least the section across the river, where the lovely Princess Marigold resides. Having spent many hours gazing at Marigold through a telescope and corresponding with her by "p-mail" (letters sent by carrier pigeon), he has already felt the sting of Cupid's arrow by the time he lands a job in court. Marigold readily returns his affections, but unfortunately, she is about to become betrothed to Sir Magnus. Meanwhile, Marigold's evil mother, Queen Olympia, is plotting to murder both Marigold and her kindly, doting father, King Swithbert. Readers swept into the lighthearted spirit of this novel will likely not be bothered by the predictability of outcomes. As in fairy tales of old, jabs are made at social values and norms, and concepts of nobility and ignobility are painted in very broad strokes. Nonetheless, heroes and heroines emerge as convincing, well-rounded characters embodying flaws as well as virtues. Their foibles—Edric's tendency to mix up adages, Christian's stubborn streak and Marigold's penchant for "awful" jokes—make the good guys all the more endearing. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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