The Princess of Cortova

Bk. 3. 320p. HarperCollins/Harper. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062047304; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062047335.
Gr 4–8—An ancient seaside villa is the setting for this follow-up to The Silver Bowl (2011) and The Cup and the Crown (2012, both HarperCollins). The previous books featured Molly, a commoner gifted with magic who became King Alaric's most trusted advisor, but this novel focuses on enigmatic Princess Elizabetta, the only daughter of King Gonzalo of Cortova. Her scheming father contrives to pit King Alaric and Prince Rupert, rivals from neighboring kingdoms, against one another for Betta's hand in marriage and an alliance with the Cortovan kingdom. Betta surprises her father by proving that she is not just beautiful, but is also a brilliant strategist. When Alaric and his court arrive, Molly immediately senses great danger and is on her guard, but finds she can't resist Betta's candid warmth. Their growing friendship is tempered by the political tension, but their cautious and clever conversations over chess are one of the book's delights. Each section begins with definitions of chess terms, all metaphors for the action that follows. Like a chessboard, the cast is large and the plotting takes precedence over characterization. Apart from Betta, a real understanding of the players must come from the previous books, and the writing labors a bit to get readers up to speed in this third book. Still, it's a story full of political intrigue, deep friendships, and undeclared loves that begins with the princess enjoying the solitary quiet of a morning and builds to a tumultuous, violent, and triumphant ending. This trilogy should be a staple in school and public libraries.—Martha Baden, Prescott Public Library, AZ
This is the final novel in the trilogy that began with The Silver Bowl. Here, Molly, Tobias, and King Alaric are trapped in King Gonzalo's plan to control three kingdoms by brokering his daughter's marriage. Castle intrigue, friendship, love, and real danger weave together into a fast-paced story. Molly is a terrific heroine--talented, loyal, and thoughtful.

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