Monday, March 28, 2011

"Princess Ben," by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben starts out with a bang—great voice, great characterization, great dramatic conflict.  It fizzles a little in the middle, and ties up at the end too perfectly for my tastes, but it's still an enjoyable read.

The tale takes place in a land of castles and kings and European-sounding names, and I thought at first I might have found one of those incredibly rare examples of a mysterious genre I can't even name—a pseudo-medieval setting, with perhaps a different culture or pattern of development than our real history, but without any magic to save the day.  It's a setting I love, and love to write, but rarely find.  I thought Princess Ben might fit the ticket, but no luck.  The magic appears several chapters in, and isn't overpowering, but it still would be nice to one day find a fantasy with no fantasy.   

The main character is a princess, but chubby and not particularly sophisticated.  She's fun to watch because she's clumsy and stubborn but thoroughly likeable.  Another great character is the tyrannically perfect aunt, the queen regent, who tries to make a curtseying, superficial, thin-waisted princess out of Ben.       

My rating:  4

Catherine Gilbert Murdock's other books are contemporary young adult fiction, but one of her true loves is certainly juvi and YA fantasy.  On her website (, she says, "When someone recommends a book, I immediately ask, 'Is it for grownups?  Because I don't read those.'  Followed by 'Does it have dragons?'"  Love it.

See her website for more.  

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