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Never After    by Rebecca Lickiss order for
Never After
by Rebecca Lickiss
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

In this light-hearted frolic, the author puts a modern spin on some familiar tales. Prince Athelstan, after laboriously cutting his way into a foliage-encrusted castle, finds to his dismay, instead of a sleeping princess, three sleeping princes. After a few bitter thoughts about careless copying by monks, Athelstan enlists the aid of his impossible cousin Vevila. Vevila is impossible because she despises her princely suitors and has no intention of giving up her dream of adventure and travel for the boring role of staid wife.

She agrees to help by kissing the princes (no law says she has to marry one) to awaken them from their enchanted sleep, in return for Athelstan's promise to help deceive her parents (Vevila has run away from home again). However, much to her exasperation, the aged witch who enchanted the princes is fanatically determined to protect her innocent charges from the evils of the world; and the easiest way to accomplish this goal is to keep them asleep.

Cunningly, Urticacea sets Vivela a daunting task to prove herself a princess - she is to spin straw into gold - and sets additional tests for other princesses who arrive at the castle. Readers will recognize familiar characters, including Rumplestiltskin and Cinderella's step-sisters. In the end, the princesses not only waken the princes but achieve a happy ending for all, except for Urticacea.

Never After is fun. The author seems to delight in presenting skewed variations of tried-and-true characters and situations; some fairy tale favourites come out looking rather unsavory (wizards and magical godmothers, for example). She also adroitly follows a very large cast of characters, resolving their story-lines in a satisfactory fashion. All in all, Never After is a light and amusing confection for a holiday read.

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