Cecilia is a 14 year-old girl living in a small village with Nanny Gratine. However, she has a secret: she is the real princess of Suala. She is in hiding because her parents were murdered the day she was born. Every since she could remember, her teacher, Sir Stephen (who is also a knight), has been teaching her about the rules and responsibilities of ruling the throne. Soon, when her parents' murderers are imprisoned and it is safe for her to take over, she will relieve the decoy, Princess Desmia, of her mission. Until then, however, Cecilia is stuck in this small village with her friend Harper, who does not know of the secret. One day, as she and Harper are walking down to the pond to go fishing, she senses that someone is following them. She thinks that these people are trying to kidnap her and that they know that she is the real princess. That night, she realizes that she needs to tell Harper the truth, just in case something does happen to her. When Harper finds out, he is outraged over the situation. He cannot believe that Cecilia could be so selfish as to put someone else's (Desmia's) life in danger just so that she can be safe. Cecilia feels guilty, so she and Harper decided to sneak out of the village and go to Suala. Harper takes his harp so that they have a reason to be going there in the first place. On their way out, they hear Nanny calling for Cecilia. They rush to her and see that the house is wrecked. Although Nanny is fine, she is nervous about Cecilia's safety in the village and tells her to go to Sir Stephen's house, not knowing that the teens were planning to go to Suala. The teens disobey and go to Suala instead. There, they enter a music competition to get inside the castle and meet Desmia, who is one of the judges. After their performance, Cecilia approaches Desmia and tells her that she is the real princess. Desmia nods in understanding and follows the teens out of the room. She leads them up a secret flight of stairs where the teens are blinded into entering a small trap. A couple of days later Desmia returns with Ella Brown, who is part of the delegation to create peace between the countries of Suala and Fridesia. These two countries are at war and Ella is on a mission with the delegation to end the war. However, Ella is also Desmia's friend and is trying to help her with this princess mystery because Desmia believes that she is the true princess. Upon hearing Cecilia's side of the story, the teens are released and are escorted down to a dungeon to find eleven others girls claiming that they are the true princesses. They tell the same story as Cecilia, except that they lived in different villages and had different teachers. Here, Cecilia begins questioning her identity, feeling betrayed by Sir Stephen. The group begins sneaking around the palace to try to find out some details. Cecilia gets lost and stumbles upon a secret dungeon where there are eleven men barred against the wall.Cecilia realizes that these men were the girls' teachers. Next to these men Cecilia finds a twelfth set of bars. They are empty. She realizes that they must be for Sir Stephen. Unfortunately, I do not want to give away the ending, so if you would like to know what happens next you will need to read the book to find out what happens. Questions:
1. The knights that Cecilia finds are in terrible condition. Cecilia says, " They are old men, shrunken down to bone and beards...They look like they've been crucified" (Haddix 207). If you were Cecilia, would you rather free them and risk being caught, or would you rather leave them there because you know you are the real princess and they are all imposters? If you free them, what would you do afterwards? If you don't free them, would you tell the rest of the group about them or would you keep it a secret? Why or why not? (Sorry this is long but they are yes or no questions so I had to expand a little.)
2. When Harper found out that Cecilia was a princess, he called her selfish for letting Desmia risk her life for her. Do you think Cecilia was being selfish? Explain.