3 out of 4 stars
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I rate The Queen of Xana by Fred Pilcher as 3 out of 4 stars. I read just a sample of this book and was immediately hooked and decided to read the whole thing. It was easy to recognize the genre immediately as an adult fairy tale, and I could just imagine how Disney<i>R</i> might create a motion picture of it. The details are good, but the dialog is sometimes stilted. The order of the story and the editing are strong.
The story begins with a typical fairy tale of a beautiful queen giving birth and the fairy godmother appearing and offering a prophecy. The mother dotes on her daughter, Princess Agatha, and raises her to be a sweet, loving, intelligent young woman. Then, we see this young woman/teen interact with her people, the poorer class, helping them to help themselves. Her kindness spreads just as we hope for in a fairy tale. Life sounds idyllic with families working together for happy successful homes, the elderly cared for and valued, and a princess who enjoyed frolicing with the children while supporting her people to be self-sufficient. As we see the young teen grow into an older teen she becomes wiser to the politics of her kingdom and the aristocratic tradition.
Soon an evil Magi appears and tragedy befalls the kingdom, followed immediately by the fairy godmother and a prince. The story unfolds in the traditional line of a fairy tale, but with gritty, adult themes. “Multiply orgasmic” does indeed sound like a fairy tale, to many readers. This story continues beyond the “they married and lived happily ever after” by describing exactly what Queen Agatha does and how she leads so her people may in fact, live happily ever after. The adultness of this fairy tale comes through as Agatha deals with harvests and grain storage, teacher shortages and embezzlements. It is the details that the author uses to make scenes come alive, like the steps to Agatha learning to ride a horse, but the brevity of the scenes that keep the action rolling. Unlike most children’s stories, this story continues beyond Queen Agatha’s old age and death.
The advantage of fairy tales is that almost anything can happen and the reader will assume that magic makes up for any lack of logic. But an adult fairy tale can carry all the gritty reality of the real world and true adult themes on full display. We all know that the knights rescued damsels from belligerent rapists in the childhood fairy tales, but in an adult tale it can be more spelled out and the power, or power-thwarting, is all the more interesting. Like most fairy tales the characters are not developed all that deeply. The reader already has an expectation of a princess or an evil magician, so the author doesn’t need to describe the characters as much. The narrator does step out of the story to give information sometimes and pertinent background understanding is given in a paragraph rather than over the course of many chapters. I was concerned that the prince left his kingdom and never seemed to look back. But upon reflection, I realized that was common practice for the princesses in fairy tales, in this case the roles are reversed.
I happily recommend this book to anyone mature and interested in reading an adult fairy tale. The book is very well organized and the writing is clear and concise. The story flows easily. However this book is not appropriate for some readers. There is extreme language and graphic sexual description. I enjoyed this fairy tale.
The Queen of Xana
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