The Tsar's Promise: A Russian Tale

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9780399215810: The Tsar's Promise: A Russian Tale
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The author of The Talking Eggs recounts the story, derived from Russian folklore, of a tsar who unwittingly pledges his son to a demon and a princess who helps the young man escape his fate, with many richly painted illustrations.

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From School Library Journal:

Kindergarten-Grade 3-- Returning from a long journey, Tsar Kojata is captured by a hideous demon who demands to have what awaits the ruler at home. Thinking that nothing is worth risking his life over, Kojata agrees. But once home, he discovers that his son was born during his absence. Because Kojata forgets his promise to the demon, it is Prince Ivan who must honor it. Aided by Maria, a beautiful young woman who is also a prisoner of the demon, the young man completes each seemingly impossible task he's asked to perform and eventually returns to his homeland safely with Maria as his wife. San Souci draws largely upon the Russian folktale "King Kojata" found in Andrew Lang's The Green Fairy Book (Airmont, 1969). Although his retelling is competent, several key incidents providing much-needed character motivation have been left out. Unfortunately, the book's illustrations do little to clarify the story line. Employing a fairly realistic style, Mills uses a muted palette dominated by brown, gold, and orange for her watercolor washes. Lacking the sensitivity of her earlier work, her illustrations here look amateurish, muddy, and disturbingly flat. There's almost no sense of action or movement, and her depiction of demons seems awkward at best. The characters have northern European features, and there's little about the costumes, architecture, or religious items that identify them as uniquely Russian. Despite good intentions, this picture book never quite hits its mark. --Denise Anton Wright, Illinois State University, Normal
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

This latest offering from the author of The Talking Eggs and The Samurai's Daughter is based on a story from Andrew Lang's The Green Fairy Book. As the result of a hasty promise made by his father, Ivan, a tsar's son, must flee the clutches of an evil demon together with the beautiful Maria, an enchanted princess. San Souci combines several elements (too many, perhaps) of a classic fairy story: a subterranean palace (here, carved from a single ruby); impossible tasks that must be accomplished to win freedom; a wild flight with villains in pursuit. The tale begins promisingly, but loses its momentum in a tangled plot; the resolution, especially (in which the pair foil their pursuers with some quick-change legerdemain), seems abrupt and overly tidy. Mills's ( The Rag Coat ) evocative illustrations, in muted sepias and turquoises with embellished borders, extend the magical motifs, but occasionally exhibit a commercial look, particularly in the protagonists' faces. (One puzzlement is the depiction of a fly on Maria's right cheek--an insect that the text specifically places on her left cheek.) Both writer and artist conjure up a number of striking images here, but the end result falls short of the mark. Ages 4-up.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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