"The Princess and the Hound" is the story of Prince George, who secretly possesses the gift of talking to animals. Animal Magic has long since been punishable by death in George's kingdom, and those discovered to possess it are burned. But George learns early on from his mother, who also possesses the gift, that he must keep it a secret and consequently doesn't let anyone get close to him.
George agrees to marry the princess of the neighboring kingdom to help keep the peace, and goes to meet her for the first time. The reception he gets from Princess Beatrice is cool to say the least (she has her own set of problems, most of which stemming from her verbally abusive father among other things), but George is intrigued by Princess Beatrice who is deeply devoted to her wild hound, Marit. The two have not parted since they encountered each other five years previously. At first, George thinks Beatrice might have animal magic as well, but soon realizes there's something else going on. In an effort to gain Beatrice's trust, he tells her of his abilities. Beatrice agrees to keep his secret, and the two slowly begin a tentative friendship.
Both George and Beatrice are fascinating characters, and their stories drive the narrative. It's interesting, because there were times that I really didn't care for Beatrice, but then she'd have this connection with her hound that made me like her. Sort of one of those, "well, if my dog likes you, you must be okay" kind of situations.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you love fairy tales that aren't dumbed down to "and they lived happily ever after." The characters earn their "happy" ending (which is really a beginning), as each comes to know and trust the other, despite their secrets.
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