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Literature / The Two Princesses of Bamarre

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"Step follows step.
Hope follows courage.
Set your face toward danger.
Set your heart on victory."
Drualt, The Bamarrian epic

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is a young adult fantasy novel written by Gail Carson Levine (of Ella Enchanted fame) published in 2001.

Princesses Meryl and Adelina of Bamarre are polar opposites. Meryl, the elder, wants nothing more than to embark on a grand adventure. Addie, the younger, wants nothing more than to stay at home under Meryl's watchful eye for the rest of her days, in peace and safety. The land of Bamarre is home to specters, which lure travelers to their deaths unless exposed, sorcerers, ogres, dwarves, elves, gryphons, dragons, and fairies. Fairies, however, have not been seen since Drualt, Bamarre's greatest hero and subject of myths, went up to visit them after the tragic death of his sweetheart Freya. Bamarre is also plagued by a fatal disease called the Grey Death, which has three stages: Weakness, Sleep, and then Fever. While the weakness may last for a few days to weeks, the sleep stage always lasts nine days, and the fever always lasts three. A prophecy foretells that the cure for the Grey Death will come "when cowards find courage and rain falls over all Bamarre".

Then Meryl is struck down by the deadly disease. Desperate to save her sister, Addie must put aside her fears to Find the Cure! in a Race Against the Clock.

Provides examples Of:

  • Action Girl: Meryl loves adventure and swordplay, and gets to show off during the final battle even while deathly sick. Addie becomes one over the course of her journey, as she successfully fights off several monsters.
  • Affably Evil: Vollys, the dragon who takes Addie captive, develops a very unusual dynamic with her. While she expects she'll eventually lose interest in Addie and kill her, she also enjoys her company, calls her by an Affectionate Nickname, and expects she'll be mourning her even while she's dying. She takes no notice of Addie stabbing her during an escape attempt and, even as she lies dying from a wound the princess inflicted, she asks Addie to mourn her, as she would have done if their positions were reversed. Her final act is even to move her neck so Addie can get out from under.
  • Battle Couple: Rhys and Addie towards the end. They declare their love for one another just before the final battle takes place.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Good news is Addie, Meryl, Rhys, and their crew are able fulfill the prophecy, curing the Grey Death; Addie herself has grown as a person, and Meryl isn't dead. Bad news is Meryl was too far into her illness to be cured by the mystical water, so she elected to be turned into a fairy, which means she can't go back to Bamarre with her sister. However, they can still see each other, with Meryl being Addie's children's Fairy Godmother.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Vollys notes that her mother could have killed Drualt many times, but she was after revenge, not outright death, and was reluctant to harm her hoard.
  • Death by Gluttony: A flock of gryphons eat themselves to death at Addie's magically refilling tablecloth.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: The final story of Drualt tells how the hero's Love Interest, Freya, was mortally wounded by gryphons. Drualt fought them off, but was only able to hold her as she died.
  • Disappeared Dad: King Lionel, the father of the titular princesses, is a distant, negligent man. While not bad per se, he never takes action until he's spent a ridiculous amount of time consulting a book of proverbs he carts around. When his oldest daughter comes down with a deadly disease, he vows to go out and find a cure... after having a leisurely breakfast and spending several days consulting his book. He ends up not even attending his younger daughter's wedding, because he thinks the proverbs advise against it!
  • Dragon Hoard: The dragon Vollys' lair is full of treasure she keeps to herself, sharing only occasionally and temporarily with her "guests."
  • Emergency Transformation: Meryl, being too close to death to be cured effectively by the mystical water, is transformed into a fairy.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The book is a fine example of this. The protagonists are the sisters Princess Addie and Princess Meryl. Meryl dreams of going out adventuring and ends up turning into a fairy, which means she will spend an eternity fighting and protecting her land from monsters. Addie fights her fears and travels the land to save her sister from an illness, along the way facing numerous monsters and outwitting a dragon. The king, the girls' father, is shown to be an indecisive and ineffectual ruler, and the book ends with the implication that Addie will become a far better ruler (or at least will be able to rid the land of the monsters in it). The main male character and Addie's Love Interest, Rhys, helps out when he can, but it's clear that Addie is the heroine of the tale.
  • Fictional Document: The epic tale of Drualt is essentially this universe's version of King Arthur. Subverted when Drualt himself turns out to be a real person and appears towards the end.
  • Find the Cure!: The whole point of the book, with the added twist that Addie's not sure if the cure's even real, and when they do find it, it's too late for Meryl, who has to have an Emergency Transformation. Also played with, in that while the cure that Addie ultimately found would have worked just fine, she also inadvertently found the "real" cure, which everyone in the kingdom had been searching for — by being a "coward who found courage", Addie caused rain to fall all over the land. The rain came from the home of the fairies and cured everyone of the disease.
  • The Flame of Life: Sorcerers are born when lightning strikes a block of marble. The flame that is born then remains in the sorcerer's chest and literally sustains him or her until death—they do not need food or water, only air to live, and barring an accident they can live for 500 years. At the end of this time their flame extinguishes and they die.
  • Flight of Romance: The sorcerer Rhys creates a magical scene showing him doing this with Princess Addie, and then later they do it for real.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in the story, Addie reads an encyclopedia entry on sorcerers, which mentions that they can marry humans (or other species) and have children. Addie is disappointed, because what she really wanted to know was the kind of magic sorcerers did. By the end, she is happily married to sorcerer Rhys, meaning she will be able to know all sorts of things about what sorcerers do. It's also presumed that they will have children.
  • Glamour Failure: Spectres can't leave footprints.
  • Healing Herb: Elven moily flowers, which can ease pain and heal wounds.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Homely Truths is full of these. For instance, "Peril recollected is superior to peril evaded."
    Vollys: What I adore about the best of them is that they almost mean something!
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • The Book of Beings mentions that sorcerers rarely marry but if they do, they never marry someone from their own species.
    • Addie (human) and Rhys (a sorcerer) fall in love.
    • It's not clear when Drualt and Meryl fell in love, but given that Drualt was looking after Addie from afar, he very well may have fallen for Meryl before her Emergency Transformation, when the former was a fairy and the latter a human.
  • Large Ham: Addie notes that Rhys tends to express himself rather dramatically.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Addie is easily frightened and depends on Meryl to protect and calm her. She grows out of it when she has to save Meryl from the Grey Death.
  • Mage Species: Sorcerers are this, living longer than humans and born when lightning strikes marble. Despite this, many still marry humans and can have children with them (it's said they never wed their own kind).
  • Magic Antidote: Subverted with an actual magical antidote. Addie finds out what the antidote for the Grey Death is, but by the time she makes it back, Meryl is already at death's doorstep. The fairies can't keep her alive as a human, so they offer her the choice of becoming a fairy herself.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Sorcerers are known to live more than two hundred years. Addie falls in love with Rhys and marries him at the end of the book.
  • Muggle–Mage Romance: Princess Addie develops a crush on Rhys and wonders whether the attraction might be reciprocated. It is, and they marry at the end of the book. In this case, it doubles as Interspecies Romance, because sorcerers are a different sort of being from humans.
  • Missing Mom: Addie and Meryl's mother died of the Grey Death when they were very young.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons are very dangerous, cunning, fire-breathing beasts. They are also extremely solitary and cannot stand any contact with others of their kind. But on the other hand they get very lonely, so they kidnap humans to keep them company. Unfortunately, they tend to get bored with their companions quickly, kill them in a fit of rage, and then mourn them.
  • Our Elves Are Different:
    • Elves in Bamarre are shorter than humans and work in the castle as nurses, as they know a lot about healing and herbs. The one elf that we get to know better, Milton, also loves knitting.
    • One the other hand, the Fairies are more like traditional High Fantasy elves in that they are immortal, made of light, know powerful magic and fight monsters in the darkness beyond daylight.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Not much is known of gryphons' appearance, apart from the fact that they are big, winged and beaked. And they are voracious—they won't stop eating as long as food is available, even if they die of overeating. They can literally eat until they burst.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Addie notices this in retrospect after a spectre impersonates Rhys, noting that the real Rhys would never steal, as the fake one suggested doing.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: The dragon Vollys treats her prisoners as "guests" before killing them, letting them live longer with a system of giving and taking away pieces of treasure from her hoard for entertaining her. She reminisces about several of her previous victims fondly, talking about them like they were old friends and mourning the fact that she got bored and killed them. In return, the protagonist Addie later regrets having to kill her to escape.
  • Rugged Scar: In-Universe, Rhys wants the fairies to let him keep a scar incurred in the final battle because he thinks it makes him look dashing.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Addie knows that dragons are lonely, so when Vollys captures her, she spends her time embroidering flattering pictures of the dragon, and befriending her. It's revealed that Vollys deliberately invokes this, kidnapping a person to ease her loneliness, and enjoying their company until she inevitably grows bored with them and kills them.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Addie develops a crush on Rhys. Rhys worries about her on the quest and carries her out of Mulee Forest. They get married at the end.
    • The pairing of Meryl and Drualt receives a minor tease when Meryl calls him by a nickname and brushes petals out of his hair and he calls her his "dear Meryl", minutes after mentioning his lost love.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Addie and Meryl. Addie is tall, dark, shy, and a homebody who enjoys domestic pursuits like embroidery. Meryl is small, blonde, bold, and adventurous.
  • Skewed Priorities: When leaving on her quest, Addie, who is arachnophobic, almost goes down the path that would put her in contact with a dragon rather than one that would leave her near a spider (an ordinary spider, not a magical creature) before realizing that that would be an absurd decision.
  • Spontaneous Generation: Sorcerers are born when lightning strikes marble.
  • Sprint Shoes: Addie's Seven League Boots, which go seven leagues whenever the wearer raises a foot.
  • Taking You with Me: The dragon Yune, toward humanity in general. The Grey Death was her Dying Curse.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Addie resists adventure until Meryl is struck.
  • The Plague: The Grey Death, which turns out to be a Mystical Plague.
  • Tired After the Song: A variant gets Played for Drama. After declaiming the moment Drualt kills Yune, Meryl stops, tired. Addie notes the oddity, given that she usually recites until the story has finished and every question has been answered. Then Rhys tells Addie her sister is showing the first signs of the Grey Death.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Meryl and Addie, respectively. Meryl is adventurous and idolizes a male hero, Drualt, while Addie is reserved and likes traditionally feminine activities like embroidery.
  • Treacherous Spirit Chase: Spectres are fond of appearing in friendly shapes to lure victims to their doom.
  • Treasure Room: Vollys' lair is full of treasure.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Tomboyish older sister Meryl is the one who becomes ill with the Grey Death, while delicate younger sister Addie survives and must carry on Meryl's mission. Played with at the end when Meryl doesn't die, but she becomes a fairy and can't return to her old life.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Spectres. They can take the image of anyone.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Sorcerers can live up to 500 years unless they meet with a mishap. They are a separate species from humans with a longer lifespan.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The way the Grey Death works. It comes in three stages, where the weakness stage will last for a few days to a couple weeks, the sleep stage always lasting nine days, and the fever lasting three.