Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bookends: Princess Ben

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Ben's upbringing with her parents had been one of happy-go-lucky days, making friends with villagers and playing outside, but when her parents are assassinated and she is taken to live in the castle with her Aunt Sophia (Queen Regent), her life suddenly takes a dramatic turn for the worse. She must learn all the courtly courtesies -- how to speak, stitch, eat, make boring conversation. Unable to take the hunger and boredom, she rebels -- and gets locked in a tower as punishment. But it's in the tower one horrible evening after a lashing from her aunt, that the wall gives way and she suddenly finds that she can walk through stone. She is led to a small dusty room, wherein lies a book of elemental spells -- how to make earth, air, wind, and fire. In a desire to escape during a ball in which she is supposed to charm a husband, Ben uses the spells she has been working on to fly out the tower window on a broom. And then she crashes into a mountain, near the camp of enemy soldiers, and is taken prisoner. From the frying pan and into the fire. When she learns of the armies plans to march into her kingdom, she knows she must return and save her people, but how she's going to accomplish that, she has no idea.

I had a lot of fun reading this book. Princess Ben (no, she's not a boy) is a great character, full of smart-alecky comments and trouble-making. She wants to do right by the people she knows and loves, but can't see how obeying her aunt could possibly make things better for anyone. And her aunt clearly does not understand her, either. But when she learns how others really see her, and also proves to herself her own value, big changes start to happen. Now, don't let this review sound all sentimental and good for you. There are plenty of chuckles in this book, some magic, and even a pinch of romance. So if you're looking for a lightweight fantasy, or if you've enjoyed enchanted princess tales before, pick this one up. Enjoy!

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