Thursday, December 10, 2009
Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Told in the form of a memoir, by the aging Queen Ben(evolence), this is the story of her youth, beginning with the murder of her parents and her tutelage under Queen Sophia. Ben at this age is hardly an aspiring royal. She despises her dancing, embroidery, and poise lessons, stuffs herself with sweets, and generally causes havoc where she goes. By accident one day, she discovers a secret portal in the castle that leads her to a book of spells. Events then fall into place for her to become a much better person and to truly bloom into a princess.
The story is all good fun, full of the requisite fairy tale elements (magic, dragons, battles, fancy dresses, etc.) but with a good dose of modern sensibility thrown in (Ben's rebelliousness, the narrator's advice to young readers, etc.). It never really takes off though. As with any adventure story, you turn the pages waiting for the next surprise and this one delivers, but the characters are remarkably flat and uninspiring. The romance, such as it is, never really takes off. Ben's coming of age (so crucial for this narrative) is never believable. Worst of all, the passive narration throughout (and some unnecessarily "forsooth" language) serves mostly to distance the reader from the story and the characters. It isn't a boring book, but there are so many better recent examples of this genre to try out.