3 out of 4 stars
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As a little girl, I dreamed of being in a far away story alongside the characters of Cinderella or Snow White. I was mesmerized by the kingdoms and the life of a princess. Even as an adult, I have a hidden desire to return to these magical places of my childhood. With the help of The Queen of Xana by Fred Pilcher, I was once again able to experience the mystical wonders of an ancient kingdom.
When tragedy strikes and Agatha is suddenly thrust into the highest ruling position of the land, she is faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Agatha is only twenty years old, and many wonder if she will be able to rule with the maturity and skills needed. Almost immediately, their questions and concerns are put to rest. Queen Agatha dusts off the pain of her past and immediately sets in motion numerous actions to uplift the poor subjects in her village of Xana. Queen Agatha faces many obstacles, from the evil Magi to the greed of her own council, but through it all she remains strong and confident. This fierce confidence, along with her compassion, makes Queen Agatha a very effective ruler. With her plans, Xana soon develops a school system, increases its agricultural and trade yields, and improves the system of punishment. As predicted by her fairy godmother, Agatha becomes a wonderful queen. Her kindness and generosity soon make her the most beloved monarch in Xana’s history.
This fictional book is told through a narrator who is recounting oral stories passed down through generations. Like any oral story, there are bits and pieces of unanswered questions. In these cases, the narrator’s own thoughts and opinions are included in italicized text. Overall, I thought this was a very inventive way to present the story, and I think it worked well.
I enjoyed Agatha’s character in this story. She is a strong, determined woman. Although she is married, she is often depicted as an independent character who relies on her own confidence and critical thinking skills to make decisions. I appreciate the fact that she develops her own plans and strategies instead of following in the steps of her predecessor, her mother. It shows that you can respect and love someone even if you have differing opinions. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the land of Xana itself. The importance of gender, economic, and social equality is something we can all learn from. Overall, I noticed very few errors, and the book appears to be well-edited.
Unfortunately, I had trouble completely immersing myself in this story. The author obviously hoped to spark discussion about various political strategies, but this came with the loss of a magical book. The author often embellished the story to encourage his point about social and political reform, but this led to the issues becoming simplified and unrealistic. I actually agree with many of the programs in education and trade that Queen Agatha introduced, but I found it unrealistic when the programs immediately turned Xana into a utopia.
Additionally, there were some sentences with strange wording or missing commas, which sometimes made the story difficult to read. I often found myself rereading these sentences to make sure I understood the meaning. There were also aspects of the book that felt very repetitive. For example, the narrator mentions that in this particular society it was common for women to be naked. There is a discrepancy as to whether Queen Agatha went naked herself or whether she wore simple, peasant clothing. While this is certainly worth mentioning, the narrator mentions this discrepancy numerous times throughout the story. The interruption of the scenes to remind the reader of this information felt unnatural and distracting.
I rate this book three out of four stars . I enjoyed the discussion of political reform, and I think it was a very unique way to present this discussion. I would have enjoyed the book more if the author had spent more energy in the storytelling and development of a realistic plot. This book is an adult fairy tale, so I would recommend it to adults who still like to reminisce about fairy tales such as Cinderella or Snow White. I think an audience who also appreciates discussing the politics of society would most enjoy this book. There are sexual scenes, so I do not recommend this book to children.
The Queen of Xana
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