Monday, July 21, 2014

Reading on a Theme: Princesses of Fantasy

Princesses in fantasy novels are not as demur as one might imagine. The princesses in these novels are spies, runaways, heroes, magicians, and saviors. They certainly aren't sitting around polishing their crowns.

Fantastical Baghdad:
Najwa is a jinni. Zayele is a princess who is betrothed to the prince against her will. Najwa, who is training to become a spy for the jinn in their war against the humans, is captured by Zayele who wishes on her. As the wish is granted the two girls switch places. I love stories about switched identities, and this is a fun one. Both Najwa and Zayele find themselves in enemy territory, where any misstep could mean their doom. However, living with the enemy also means getting to know them as individuals. The setting is rich with historical and fantastical details. Both Najwa and Zayele are girls a reader can really grow to love. Amber Lough's debut novel, The Fire Wish is out July 22nd. Review copy from NetGalley.

Runaway Princess:
Lia is a princess of Morrighan. The book opens on the eve of her wedding to a prince she's never met. As a first daughter, Lia could inherit magic, and so she is a powerful bargaining chip. She flees with her maid to Terravin where two men find her. One is the prince she was supposed to wed. The other is an assassin sent from Venda. In an interesting twist, Pearson introduces the reader to the prince and the assassin, but she doesn't tell us who is who, and I really had no idea. For me, the book really picked up after Terravin.(This actually says a lot about the quality of this book because I have pretty strong feelings about wasteland wanderings.) If the last third of The Kiss of Deception is a good indication, Mary E. Pearson's new trilogy could be pretty spectacular. The Kiss of Deception is out July 2014. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Classic:
Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown is the ultimate princess fantasy. If we are going to talk about princesses with great magic who do great deeds we cannot leave out Aerin of Damar. Aerin is an unwanted daughter who becomes a skilled fighter with magic of her own and the wielder of the powerful Blue Sword. And there are dragons and great loves. Here, I must make a confession: I'm not really a Robin McKinley fan. I've tried to read several of her other novels, but they never quite work for me. However, The Hero and the Crown completely blew me away, and, although that was many years ago, it's one of those novels that sticks with me.

Called By God:
I love a fantasy with a mythical religion, and religion is a huge part of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Princess Lucero-Elisa bears the Godstone in her navel. She is destined to perform some great service to God and her people. What that service will be, however, is a complete mystery, and Elisa doesn't feel like she could ever be up for the task. She's overweight and lacks self-esteem. For the first half of this novel things happen to Elisa, and she reacts (or eats her inadequacies). However, as the novel progresses Elisa starts to come into her own--her growth will continue over the next two novels in the series. Rae Carson creates a really interested world. It could perhaps be based on colonial Mexico--with deserts, indigenous peoples, open air palaces, arid mountains. The religion has a very Catholic-colonial feel to it as well. 

Prophecy Fulfilled:
Long ago the god Oron battled the darkness. He promised to return when the darkness encroached on the light once again. Many years later most don't believe in the prophecy. But when Princess Kyla of Taramon and her former best friend Jethro touch a fallen star their arms are covered with glowing inscriptions proclaiming them to be the foretold seekers who must gather the elements and prepare for Oron's return. Melissa Pearl's Unknown feels to me like a Christian allegory: Oron is the god of light; his followers are awaiting his return; a star is a sign; children do his work. I quite liked the characters in this novel, and, although epic wandering is not really my thing, I found it quite readable. Review copy from NetGalley.

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