Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben : Being a Wholly Truthful Account of her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollection is the story of how Princess Benevolence learned to become a proper princess and saved her kingdom in the process. Ben is a slightly spoiled child living happily with her parents. Then, they are killed and she finds herself heir to the kingdom and subject to the queen's kill-or-cure re-education and makeover process. She rebels, runs away, and eventually figures out how to actually be a princess.

By the end, it's kind of charming: I enjoy a good tale of hidden passages, mysterious passages, secret magic lessons, and (possibly) dragons. The political intrigue finally comes into focus and starts to matter, and some mysteries are cleared up. There are even hints of an eccentric castle here: The magic room only gives lessons when it wants to, it only lets her open the book to certain pages, and it insists she clean it.

The trouble is Princess Ben spends about three-quarters of the book being a nearly intolerable brat. I knew she'd straighten out eventually, that was the kind of story it is, but she took far too long. Even once she starts learning to use magic, she spends most of the book using it for small, selfish things. I mean, she sneaks around and steals stuff rather than learning useful things. The one Useful Thing she does overhear, she has to have explained to her later in words of one syllable, and even then she doesn't actually do anything about it until much, much later in the book.

I only managed last long enough to reach the charming bits it because a) secret passages and b) It was on my MP3 player and I was busy. Also, I had a hard time believing that the, by all appearances, politically savvy queen could come up with such a stupid re-education program. I could believe in one Ben wouldn't like (there was not much she would like at that point), but not one that featured such an inept tutor.

The pseudo-archaic dialog bothered me too. I can only handle so many inverted sentences at a time, and "wherefore" is not an old-fashioned way of saying "where." It really isn't.

Verdict? Only for the truly die-hard Princess fans. Tuesdays at the Castle is a much better eccentric castle book with a much more congenial set of orphan heirs.

Other Reviews by other reviewers some of whom liked it rather more than I, and some of whom did not:
Teen Book Review
Small Review
Pica Reads
The Story Siren

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