The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

the two princesses of bamarreElla Enchanted was Gail Carson Levine’s first book and for it, she won a Newbery Honor. I read this book for the first time when I was in 8th grade and fell completely in love with it. I’ve re-read it several times since and Bart read (and loved) it shortly after we got married. It really is a fantastic book.

Perhaps the fabulousness of Ella Enchanted is what made me so disappointed in the last two books of hers that I’ve read. I read The Wish in one evening early this summer and was so unimpressed that I didn’t even write a review of it. My friend Ralphie lent me “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” a few weeks ago and I read it on the plane on Sunday. It was a lot better than The Wish but it was not even close to being on par with Ella Enchanted. Alas.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre has many of the same elements of Ella Enchanted (it almost made me wonder if she was trying to recreate the massive success of that book), with fairies, magic objects, a little romance, etc, but it just didn’t have the same magic that Ella did. It felt a little rushed in some places and very slow in others. It simply didn’t work together as well as Ella had.

the two princesses of bamarre

Anyway, the two princesses are polar opposites: Meryl seeks adventure and wants to leave the palace and go find a cure for the Gray Death and find the fairies. Addie is scared of practically everything, especially Meryl leaving and makes her swear to not leave until Addie has married (she promises herself she will never marry because then Meryl will never be able to leave).
Then, Meryl comes down with the Gray Death and Addie forces herself to leave to find the cure before Meryl dies. She’s given some pretty excellent gifts to help her – seven-league boots, letting her get anywhere she needs within a few steps, a table cloth that sets itself with a feast anytime you say the magic words, a cloak that makes you less noticeable (not quite invisible, though), and a spyglass that can look through walls/stone/brick/wood, etc.
I didn’t hate The Two Princesses of Bamarre; it did have some great parts. I loved the dragon scenes, and I liked how the plot was resolved. It really was a fine book, made worse by the unavoidable comparisons with Ella Enchanted.

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  1. Yeah, sometimes the anticipation brought on by past books makes the disappointment that much greater. I can see why that whole sophomore slump happens, you know? There must be a lot of pressure.

  2. Ella Enchanted is my favorite book! I gave the Two Princess of Bamarre to my niece for Christmas and she couldn’t stop comparing it to Ella Enchanted and therefore did not enjoy it.

    Great blog…and great pictures of DC!

  3. Loved Ella Enchanted, not so much enchanted by her commissioned work for Disney, “Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg.” Haven’t read Bamarre yet. Try Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.

  4. So I’m terribly late to the party, but I wanted to add my two cents. I read ‘The Two Princesses of Bamarre’ before ‘Ella Enchanted’. This made it beautiful for me. I love ‘The Two Princesses if Bamarre’, it trapped me in a land of magic, bipolar dragons, and decieving specters. The ‘Two Princesses of Bamarre’ is the book that sent me spiralling much further in fantasy reading than ever before. It lead me to Fairest, Ella Enchanted, and a book called Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire, which was recommended to me since I loved what I had read of Levine’s work so far. Anyways, if you read them opposite ways, Bamarre’ before Ella I mean, it only gets better and better. Happy reading everyone and sorry for coming up in here, uninvited and completely late, but I loved this book and needed to put my input in. I don’t want future readers to turn up their noses simply because others found disappointment, it’s still a very beautiful book, especially if it is your first by her.

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