Review Blog

Sep 18 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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Pan, 2008
(Age 12+) A change of pace from the author of Dairy Queen and its sequel, The off season, Princess Ben is a fairy tale with a difference. When her mother is assassinated and her father and his brother the King disappear, Princess Benevolence is forced by Queen Sophia to acquire some of the characteristics befitting a princess. Used to running wild and having her own way, Ben uses every skill she has to hinder the queen's attempts to make her lose weight and groom her to rule the kingdom. When she is locked into a tower she discovers a passage that leads to an enchanted room and spends her nights learning spells and how to manipulate a magic broom. However her magical skills are inadequate and she is flung out into the world to fend for herself. When war looms she is forced to re-examine what she needs to do to look after her country.

This coming of age story has the reader empathising with Ben, who has been used to being the centre of her parents' world. Alone and unloved, she is determined not to turn into the sort of girl who is only interested in attracting the right type of suitor. Her courage and determination to become her own person keeps the reader engrossed as she thwarts Queen Sophia, pursues her magic skills and survives as a prisoner in the king of Drachensbett's army. The romance strand with Florian, the Prince of Drachensbett, is less satisfying to romance lovers, but fits in well with Ben's feisty character.

This would be an easy to read and enjoyable introduction to the genre of fairy tales retold and could lead to the exploration of more in-depth stories like those told by Robin McKinley.
Pat Pledger

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