cover image Wisdom’s Kiss

Wisdom’s Kiss

Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-547-56687-0

A delightful kernel of a story sinks from the weight of a complicated format in this fairy tale from the author of Dairy Queen. Told in letters, scenes from a play, and extracts from memoirs, diaries, and encyclopedia entries, the tale revolves around the scheming duchess of Farina, who conspires to grab power by marrying her son to the neighboring kingdom’s Princess Wisdom. Into this main thread enters Trudy, an orphaned, clairvoyant kitchen wench who longs to reunite with Tips, whose acrobatic skills have earned him an apprenticeship with a flashy swordsman. As Wisdom travels through Trudy’s village to her wedding, Queen Mother Ben notes Trudy’s talents and drafts her as a lady-in-waiting. Palace intrigue and a tension-filled romantic triangle enliven the pace by midpoint, but the shifting points of view and encyclopedia entries, in particular, act like stop signs to narrative momentum. It’s a pity, as the clever allusions to fairy tales, wordplay, and an original take on “happily ever after” leave the impression Murdock had fun writing this. Despite its flawed start, readers who get halfway through will find incentive to reach the finish line. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)