This latest offering from the author of The Talking Eggs and The Samurai's Daughter is based on a story from Andrew Lang's The Green Fairy Book. As the result of a hasty promise made by his father, Ivan, a tsar's son, must flee the clutches of an evil demon together with the beautiful Maria, an enchanted princess. San Souci combines several elements (too many, perhaps) of a classic fairy story: a subterranean palace (here, carved from a single ruby); impossible tasks that must be accomplished to win freedom; a wild flight with villains in pursuit. The tale begins promisingly, but loses its momentum in a tangled plot; the resolution, especially (in which the pair foil their pursuers with some quick-change legerdemain), seems abrupt and overly tidy. Mills's ( The Rag Coat ) evocative illustrations, in muted sepias and turquoises with embellished borders, extend the magical motifs, but occasionally exhibit a commercial look, particularly in the protagonists' faces. (One puzzlement is the depiction of a fly on Maria's right cheek--an insect that the text specifically places on her left cheek.) Both writer and artist conjure up a number of striking images here, but the end result falls short of the mark. Ages 4-up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992 Release date: 11/01/1992 Genre: Children's
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.