Monday, June 23, 2008
Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Princess Benevolence of Montagne, aka "Ben," is spoiled and childish for her fifteen years. Still pampered by her parents, she reads only fairy stories, plays with dolls and makes mudpies. She has little to no self-control, is stubborn and wilfull, and is unable to focus on any task she is given. Then her world is destroyed. Her parents, her uncle and a royal guard went to visit her grandfather's tomb one morning. The bodies of her mother and uncle were brought back on carts. Her father and the guard were never found. Queen Sophia moves Ben, as the only surviving royal heir, into the castle and begins the long process of educating the unwilling girl in the ways of royalty. Lessons in deportment, dance, languages, dress, conversation, etiquette and more are suddenly filling Ben's life. She stubbornly refuses to learn. Meanwhile, Montagne's neighbor, Drachensbett, assumed the assassins of the royal family, are threatening war...or alliance through marriage. Their Prince Florian is about Ben's age. But the two take an instant dislike to each other. Drachensbett is determined to have the lands of Montagne one way or another.
Ben is not a likeable character in the beginning. She is interesting, however, and as the story progresses, so does her personality. There is lots of action and adventure and a bit of magic in this tale, and the writing style will sweep you into the midst of it all. With nods at traditional fairy tales, Murdock crafts a story unlike any other. Fans of strong female characters, the Princess Diaries, and Murdocks other books (Dairy Queen, The Off Season), will really enjoy this title.