Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

A student asked me to read this and while I can see why she liked it with the romance and adventure, I know I won't remember it a few months from now. The lack of characters changing internally and missing background knowledge for the setting made parts confusing.  My imagined characters kept changing as details slowly leaked out of the storyline. At times not enough information was given and at other times the details were rushed when the author should have zoomed in on an important point. The mish-mash of myths, fairy tales, and folklore made for an interesting combination but in the end failed to rise above the pitfalls of pacing and background set-up.

Reveka is the daughter of a gardener at the castle where there is a curse on the Prince's daughters, the twelve princesses, who have to dance each night until they have holes in their shoes. The Prince has offered a reward to anyone who can break the spell, but people who try to save them either fall into an enchanted sleep or disappear. Reveka is apprenticed to a monk and studies herbs. She's trying to break the curse because she wants the reward to establish her own herbary and further study it as a career. With the help of another herb apprentice, Didina, they uncover clues that leads Reveka into the Underworld where she must make a choice to save those she loves.

The plot. Where to start? Not enough information was given up front resulting in too much confusion. The beginning has a barrage of princesses and princes and one with a "tavern wench accent." I am going to give some spoilers but I think they will help in understanding what is going on; otherwise it isn't really clear until the very end of the book. The princesses are not sisters but half-sisters. I think the prince slept with someone in a local tavern, but how the heck they ended up in the castle and what mom thought about it is not explained. And mom is called, the Princess Consort. I know some students will be confused by that not being familiar with the term. I think the Princess Consort should have been used more to give background details as to the history of the royal family. As is, I felt like I was piecing together a quilt but missing half the pieces. Many things did not make sense.

My confusion continued with the introduction of the cowherd boy Reveka's age who is described as having "forget-me-not-eyes" and a "rosebud mouth." He sounds like a child or girl by that description. My image of him was way off and I had to go back and reread to figure out his age. At times the dialogue was awkward and I wasn't sure who was whom such as when Didina appears in the book. I thought she was a princess at first. The sleepers are poorly explained and I misread it as being two people. There were many sleepers and I needed more of an explanation of how they got there and what the tower looked like visually. The plot is moved forward with Reveka having dreams but they seemed clumsy and just an easy way out rather than a clever plot technique. Or maybe I'm just tired of that device. Or maybe it was overused in this story. Then when Pa goes from gardener to soldier I was really confused. Not to mention the whole convent, lying, no mother backdrop that was not clearly presented.

There are two separate stories, the first a fairy tale and the second a myth. I found the second story more interesting than the first which follows the fairy tale too closely. I thought the second was going to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but the author varies it enough that it is different from the classic. The characters don't really change much internally and while the villain becomes slightly more complex in the second half the tension is lost on him being scary. Nor is enough of his background explained as to how he became Lord of the Underworld. The author keeps the tension up by throwing in "darkness" as the new villain. However, this wasn't enough to give the characters depth. Their motivations are never fully explained from their past and the ending just seemed rushed. Not enough teasers are given nor was I vested in the characters enough to be interested in reading a sequel. In the end, this just didn't reach its potential.

2 Smileys

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