Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Unwanted at home, Molly goes to work for the king of Westria as a humble scullery maid. She arrives at the castle with no education, no manners, and a very disturbing secret: She sees visions, and those visions always come true.One day, while she's working in the king's great hall, young Prince Alaric passes by. Molly finds him unbearably handsome—but also unbearably rude. But what does it really matter? She'll probably never see him again.In time Molly is promoted to polishing silver and is given a priceless royal treasure to work on: the king's great ceremonial hand basin. But there's something odd about it. The silver warms to her touch, a voice commands her to watch and listen, and then the visions appear. They tell the story of a dreaded curse that has stalked the royal family for years. There have already been deaths; soon there will be more.As tragedy after tragedy strikes the royal family, Molly can't help but wonder: Will the beautiful Alaric be next? Together with her friends Tobias and Winifred, Molly must protect the prince and destroy the curse. Could a less likely champion be found to save the kingdom of Westria?

After my third or fourth reread, I've decided that this book officially goes on my all-time favorites list. It's got everything I love - magic, royalty, danger, and subtle humor - without falling into any of the tired cliches that characterize most books that involve royalty and magic. In fact, Molly, the kitchen girl, is the MC - not the cute royal prince she rescues. I love seeing her roll her eyes at the prince's clueless-ness in the real world when they're hiding - like, "gee, sure, give them your royal brooch in gratitude for helping you. I'm sure no one will think they stole it if they try to sell it for, you know, actual money to replace all the food and medicine they just used on you." Okay, she didn't phrase it like that - like I said, the humor is subtle - that's just my paraphrase.

Okay, characters. As I already wrote, Meg is awesome. She's smart, and clever, but not in that really cloying cliche way. She's a bit of a wild-child in the first few chapters, but we quickly watch her flash forward about ten years. Even though she's wild, as soon as she goes to work at the castle (at age seven) she catches on to the fact that she has to do anything people ask, and not get into any trouble, if she wants to keep her post. Her stubbornness is not a tool to show that she's a flawed character (but secretly not, because stubbornness just shows strength of character!). It's a part of her personality, but a part that she knows how to deny when she needs to.

Meg also has this mysterious ability to sense the future, which isn't explained much in this book (the author delves a lot more into that in the second and third book, both of which are good but not quite as good as this one). I love how she's not going crazy with excitement about her powers: she actually sees them as a curse, not a blessing, and is deathly afraid of her visions through not only this book but actually most of the entire trilogy. She fears the burden that has been placed onto her.

Tobias is Meg's best friend, and a great character in his own right. A bit more cookie-cutter, he has all the usual side-kick bits: loyal, funny, smart, helps the MC catch her bearings in a new place (in this case the castle), and has a sad back-story to boot. However, you can't help but like Tobias. He's just so nice!

The prince doesn't actually get a huge amount of screen time in this book, because Molly the servent girl doesn't really get to interact much with Alaric the prince in the first half of the book, and then later he's pretty wounded and spends quite a bit of time unconsciouse. However, the bits that you do see give the bare outline of a compelling character. From the moment Meg (shamelessly eavesdropping) overhears him arguing with his parents as a child, you know that he's not going to be a cookie-cutter prince. Later, I love how strong he is. He still even keeps a bit of his humor! I won't go into it more than that, for fear of spoilers.

I can't really think of anything else to say, besides "read this book!" Like I said above, this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I recently bought it so I could have it forever. If you have any questions about the book, post them in the comments below! Also, I want to hear about your favorite books. Let me know what book you never get tired of, and I might just review it!

Note 5/19/15: This review is also available on the blog Bookshop Talk. Click here to check it out, and browse the reviews sent in by other book lovers!

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