Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Princess Ben

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Start Date: 24 August 2011
End Date: 27 August 2011
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin

Summary (from Goodreads):
Benevolence is not your typical princess and Princess Ben is certainly not your typical fairy tale. With her parents lost to unknown assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia, who is intent on marrying her off to the first available "specimen of imbecilic manhood." Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire... But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat facing the castle and indeed the entire country. Can Princess Ben save her kingdom from annihilation and herself from permanent enslavement?

My Review:
Although in the beginning, I didn't enjoy Princess Ben very much, ultimately it easily earns its place on my list of old favorites. It started out very slowly, and I didn't particularly care for Ben in the beginning. The book is separated into four parts, and of the four days it took me to read it, three were spent on part one. I even briefly considered putting it down until FOOF was over. Once I got to part two, the story picked up significantly and got a lot more interesting, and I devoured the rest.

I was never able to picture Ben as she described herself, but I liked reading from her perspective. At least, I liked it once she started doing something about her situation. Ben has huge character development throughout the book, and although it wasn't the driving force of the story, it was wonderful to see Ben's transformation from the sullen and unhappy girl in the beginning to the strong and competent young woman in the end. Also, I loved reading about Ben's discovery and development of her magical powers.

Throughout the book, and in part one especially, Ben was treated a little more harshly than I ideally would have liked reading about. I can (and have) read books where characters suffer through worse treatment than in Princess Ben, but in this particular circumstance I feel like it could have been avoided. Of course, Ben had to go through some sort of harsh treatment by the Queen as it becomes an important point later on, and since the entire storyline is an amalgamation of various fairy tales, primarily Cinderella (hence the harsh treatment in the beginning) and Sleeping Beauty. There is much more than those two fairy tales, but I liked how they were both incorporated. There are lots of references to other fairy tales as well. Off the top of my head I can remember the Princess and the Pea, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, but I'm sure there are many more and I enjoyed picking them out whenever I came across them.

Overall Thoughts: Although the beginning of Princess Ben is less than wonderful, the rest more than makes up for it. Recommended for YA readers who are looking for a new take on fairy tale retellings.

I read this book for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.


Small Review said...

I am SO GLAD you wrote this review today! I was reading PB this morning and thinking, "Gah, I really don't like this" and then I remember you posted your review so I checked it out. You pointed out exactly what I've been feeling (I've only read part 1 so far)! Ok, now I know there's hope. Thank you!

Pica said...

I'm glad you found my review helpful. For a while I couldn't remember why I remembered liking it so much, and I was sure that I was misremembering. Luckily I wasn't. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


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