Elara has spent her life as a servant, longing for the family she's never known and wondering why they gave her up as an infant. Princess Wilhamina, of the kingdom of Galandria, has worn a mask since she was a baby, and no one will tell why. A peace treaty is being broken between Galandria and the neighboring kingdom of Kyrenicia, which involves Wilha marrying the crown prince. Wilha and Elara are brought together under the strangest of circumstances, and must learn to trust and rely on each other.
This involves a lot of spoilers. Stop reading now if you don't want them.
I thought there were a lot of holes in this book, but I think teens will enjoy it. It has princesses and romance and mystery, and most probably won't mind that the trope (surprise twin!) is well trodden.
The reason for Wilha having to wear a mask at all times seemed weak. Why not send the other twin to another country? Or have the child killed? Or make the one who wasn't going to be a princess wear a mask? Yes, yes, then there would be no story, I know. But the entire concept this book rested on seemed very shaky. And kind of silly.
The reason for the Guardians revealing to Elara and Wilha who Elara truly also seemed weak. Why would the king want to send away one daughter and bring the other one, who he's never seen, back? Did he really think Wilha was going to keep that mask on for the rest of her life? Seems unlikely.
Wilha is the soft, quiet, docile, obedient one, raised in the palace and always does what she's told. Elara is the tough, scrappy won, forced to become hard because of her difficult upbringing. Both are shocked to realize they have a sister, and each envies the other for what she does not have. Wilha envies Elara her freedom, and Elara envies Wilha's life of luxury and family.
I did like the world building that was going on. The kingdom of Kyrenicia split from Galandria, and they are not on good terms. Both kingdoms heavily stereotypes the other, believing the other are dogs or savages. Wilha and Elara arrive in Kyrenicia and realize that the people there are just people. Most of them are kind, and each girl begins to make connections. However, not everyone is willing to give up their beliefs, and the peace of both kingdoms is threatened.
Essentially this story was The Prince and the Pauper, except at the end they don't switch back. Wilha decides that Elara makes the better princess, and gives Elara her name to take. And Wilha goes off, we don't know where, but it's just the beginning of the series. I will say I was surprised that that they didn't switch back by the end. Elara seemed pretty set on getting out of there. But then I guess the prince kissed her and everything changed. Ah well.
The Princess in the Opal Mask comes out October 22, 2013.