A True Princess, by Diane Zahler (Harper Collins, 2011, middle grade, 182 pages)
As far back as she can remember, Lilia has never had a good night's sleep. Because of this, and because of a tendency to day dream, she adds little value to the household of the farmer who took her in when she she was found as a baby, floating down the river in a curious basket.
But the farmer's own two children (Kai, close in age to ten or eleven year old Lilia, and Karina, who's five years older) love her, and so, when the farmer's new wife decides to send Lilia to work for the brutal miller, the three children run away together, on a quest to find Lilia's true family.
Their journey takes them into a mysterious woods, where the fairy king holds court, and there, through an unfortunate mischance, Kai attracts the attention of the king's daughter. And there in the enchanted woods he will remain, unless Lilia can find the lost cloak clasp of the leader of the Wild Hunt, hidden somewhere in the castle of the human king.
Lilia and Karina happily have no trouble getting work as servants in the castle. There the king and queen are trying to find a true princess to marry the prince...and fortunately for all concerned, Karina is beautiful enough so that he falls in love with her, and Lilia is lucky enough to have friends of her own--the royal falcons--who help her in her time of need, and all ends happily with a true princess being found, Kai being freed, and Karina's beauty winning her the prince.
It is a pleasant fairy tale retelling, one that should please nine and ten year old lovers of princess tales very much. That target audience will doubtless be pleased as all get out by the romance and fortuitous happenstances and happy ending, and enjoy the elements of the fairy tale, and added fantastical elements like the Wild Hunt, the household elf, and the mysterious falcons.
It's not so much one for grown-up readers, though. I thought Zahler did a good job making the inherently absurd princess and the pea story into something readable (although the royal sleep pickiness wasn't exactly explained). The element of the Snow Queen--the human boy needing to be rescued from enchantment--worked less well, mainly because the fairy princess was simply spoiled and petulant, and not a force of numinously terrifying power.
What bothered me most, however, was that the prince--so kind, helpful, and friendly--was never asked for help in finding the lost clasp. It would have made things a lot simpler ! And it was awfully convenient that Karina was so beautiful that she attracted the prince's attentions (although she seemed like a nice person, too, in a not particularly fleshed out way).
So--yes for the young reader, but not one that I'll add to my own collection.