Release Date: September 6, 2011
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf
Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.
Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money that could buy her a position as a master herbalist.
But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?
I've been lusting after The Princess Curse ever since it was nothing more than a tiny little blurb with no cover and not much information. And ever since that time, I've had two warring halves living inside me.
One side smugly crossed her arms, stuck her nose in the air, and declared that NOTHING would be as amazing as Jessica Day George's 12 Dancing Princesses retelling.
The other side was a starry-eyed mess praying to the book gods that The Princess Curse would become *THAT* book where I'd want to hug it forever and sleep with a copy under my pillow at night.
Gloriously, the latter actually came true! Ever since I finished reading I've had to fight myself not to pick it up and read it all over again (and again, and again. My review pile is glaring at me!) Now that isn't to say The Princess Curse is better than Princess of the Midnight Ball. That would be comparing apples to oranges.
Because the thing you need to know about The Princess Curse is this: You have never read a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling like this.
Oh how you astound me!
Merrie Haskell totally has an Author Brain (yes, with capital letters). Now, I kinda knew this already from all the time I had spent stalking her blog. It's sprinkled with all sorts of goodies from The Princess Curse. I knew from those little peeks that The Princess Curse was going to be a story like no other, but it wasn't until I actually read it that I realized how much was there.
In a lot of ways this is an "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of book. There's so much stuff in there. Historical bits, herbalism, adventure, magic, romance, growth, curses, shape shifters, war--you name it and it's there.
The thing is, it never feels like that. I was never bored with pages of information about the world (both the fictional Sylvania and the historical Romania around the time of Vlad the Impaler). I never felt antsy reading through dry details about herbalism.
That is because none of these things were told to me. Really, none were even shown, as authors are so frequently told to do. Merrie Haskell went beyond telling and showing, instead making me live her book. I never once felt like I was reading. I was living, breathing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing everything right alongside Reveka (I'll talk about her later!).
The best kind of fairy tale retelling
In addition to the 12 Dancing Princesses story, Merrie Haskell also wove in TWO more tales and they are almost as integral to the plot as the 12DP story (but I'm not telling you what they are!).
I never would have thought of combining these stories and if anyone had told me they were going to be combined in one book, I probably would have looked at it with some major skepticism, but that's why I DON'T have an Author Brain (like, at all). All I can say without spoiling things is that Merrie Haskell makes it work.
Obviously the original story is getting a shake up in Merrie's version, but, like all the best fairy tale retellings, The Princess Curse retains the heart and features of the original tale (or, in this case, tales).
I loved the tweaks made to the princesses, the reason there are 12, why they dance, what is under their castle, who saves them, the invisibility cloak, the king's promise, the fate of the failed princes, and the villain. All of these features remain faithful to the original while totally turning things on their head in the most original ways imaginable.
New book best friend!
Remember I said I'd mention Reveka? Oh gosh, how do I explain Reveka? She is so awesome. This is a MG book, so she's on the younger side, but that didn't stop me from relating to her. There were so many points where she would think something and I felt such a kindred spirit bond with her because *I* totally felt the same way! There's this part with spies that especially stands out for me.
Reveka is inquisitive, fiercely independent, she knows exactly what she wants and she will do whatever she needs to do to get it. She's stubborn, she's funny, she's adorably irreverent, but underneath it all she has a good heart.
Reveka would be in good company among Anne (with an E!--Reveka completely channels that spirit) from Anne of Green Gables, Vivian Vande Velde's Lylene or Alys or Mel from Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel (and that's high praise from me considering those are among my top favorite ladies from my top favorite books).
I can't say much at all about the other characters without giving things away. But, I will say that you will meet people who are of the "make my heart melt they're so kind and sweet" variety (think the old guardian types). You will also meet people who made me want to reach into the book and slap them silly. Some made me sigh with exasperation, while others left me laughing. Some shocked me with their hidden depths, and others touched me with their quiet romances.
But the best of all--the one with such depth who touched my heart, stoked my anger, made me swoon (this is MG? Yeah, but if you have an older mind...), and left me begging for more, well, I'm not saying another word about him (tease much? You betcha).
Richly drawn and lovingly rendered, The Princess Curse touched my heart, made me smirk, gave me a new book best friend, and has left me begging for more! I am astounded at the amount of originality and depth in this story. The Princess Curse is that MG book that totally silences those who would scoff at MG books as "dumbed down" stories.
My one complaint is that there is no guarantee yet for a sequel, and I want a sequel! The ending is open, but less in a way that it's a cliffhanger or the story is incomplete and more in the way that you know these characters will have a full life ahead of them. But I want to read more about that life!
What will convince publishers to print a sequel? The sales of The Princess Curse. Oh, hey, on a totally unrelated note, did you happen to notice that, at the time of this posting, The Princess Curse is available for purchase? I'm just saying.
(Ok, ok, I know, I'm totally not subtle. Can I blame my lack of finesse on my all-consuming love for The Princess Curse?)
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key
Do you have any questions about The Princess Curse that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!
Feel free to ask in the comments!