Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben was, in a word, surprising. After reading the Dairy Queen series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, I was thrown completely by the very fresh character found in Princess Benevolence. And yet, she was so incredibly different from the protagonists of earlier Murdock books.

Princess Ben of Montagne leads a life almost untouched by the difficulties of her land. That is, until her parents are mysteriously assassinated and the neighboring kingdom of Dragonsbett is the most likely aggressor. The princess must suddenly learn a great deal in order to assume the throne, all the while cringing beneath the gaze of the current regent, Queen Sophia. She must survive torturous dance lessons, near starvation, table manner education, and a stressful move to the tallest tower of the palace. It seems hopeless. And then a great mystery is uncovered in the palace. Ben discovers a secret passageway into the wizard's room of the tower and finds herself with a knack for magic and learning spells. But will the abilities to make mud from nothing and call up fire be enough to save her from the scheming and oh-so-full-of-himself Prince Florian of Dragonsbett? And on a base closer to home- are Queen Sophia's intentions honorable or is there more than simply training Ben for reign on her mind?

I have mixed feelings about this particular Murdock creation. The main character was feisty and fun to relate to, but still had some qualities that set her apart from every other feisty and fun to relate to princess we've read about before. She was strong despite her physical appearance and managed to have grace when her country demanded it of her. By the penultimate pages, I really respected Princess Ben, and that is something I don't often say about a character in a book.

The writing was fun and antiquated to match the medieval world that Ben resides in, but drifted into being weighty or even too formal on occasion. So Princess Ben actually read quite a bit like an old Grimm story, rather than a modern young adult novel. And it was familiar as one of those bed-time stories too. You could predict most plot twists, except those concerning the development of the characters. There were some really great surprises to be discovered in that. Especially Queen Sophia.

So- this book teetered on an edge for me. But even after all the things found that frustrated me, I still look back and can say I really enjoyed this novel. Perhaps it was the nostalgia of an old-fashioned fairy tale or maybe the wit. But I found it really interesting and fairly fawesome that Catherine Gilbert Murdock did something so incredibly different when she already has a good reputation for another style of writing. Brave and creative.

5.7 Lightnings out of 7. w00t!

Going on a few days of non-bloggery,


The Book Muncher said...

i thought this was one of the best books i've read :D i havent read catherine's other books, but i really want to now

Medeia said...

Ooh I read zis one. It was quite engaging. Nice review Ael.

Carol said...

I really want to read this book. It looks do good. Great review!I love her books.