Book Review: The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell is the best book I’ve read in months, if not one of the best I’ve read this year. For a children’s book, The Princess Curse is a surprisingly complex and rich story. I was pretty much blown away and that’s not a comment I give lightly. There is a twist in the middle of the story that is unexpected and completely changes the game. At the half way point in the book I realized I was not reading the story I thought I was going to read but the tale I was given was so much better than what I had expected.
Reveka is an herbalist’s apprentice in the kingdom of Sylvania, a fictional country squashed between the Turkish Empire and the Hungarians. Prince Vasile has twelve daughters that suffer from a ridiculous curse but it is a curse that keeps them from marrying and leaves the tiny kingdom in a vulnerable state. Whoever can break the curse will either marry the Princess of his choice or receive a dowry in reward. Reveka means to be the one to break the curse and use the reward to buy herself a position as herbalist to a convent. But the silly curse is much more than it seems and Reveka soon finds herself trying to protect her soul.
The Princess Curse has flavors from many tales, including the Twelve Dancing Princesses folktale, the Beauty and the Beast story, and even a touch of Greek myth. (But that would be giving the secret away.) I must admit that I was not anticipating the depth of story I found here. I was approaching The Princess Curse as if it was a cute children’s story but was not expecting anything more than to be amused. Boy, was I wrong. Teach me not to judge a book by its cover. The Princess Curse turned me on my head by the ending and delivered an intricate plot that astonished me.
Reveka is a likeable, independent character. She’s not sweet and she’s not particularly kind either but she hits that area that makes me feel as if I’m reading about a real person. There are many other characters; so many that most feel unnecessary. There are twelve princess but we are not even told all their names. It doesn’t matter anyway, only two of them have any bearing on the story. There are two boys opposite Reveka but it’s less a love story than an “I might be in like with you” story. It fits its target audience well and is a breath of fresh air. The bad guy may not be so bad and the poor fool is still kind of useless except when he’s not. Everybody in this story is not quite what they first appear to be and they all have a secret.
The Princess Curse is on several lists for pretty covers, featuring a young girl in medieval dress standing among trees sporting red buds. It’s odd, because the girl is wearing her hair loose and Reveka is described several times in the story as wearing a cowl. (It would have been odd to see any female with uncovered hair at the time.) There are also several Romanian words in the story, requiring a short listing with descriptions at the front of the book. Some people find it interesting when an author sprinkles native vocabulary around a story. I don’t. I find it a tad distracting and often wish an author would just stick with their written language.
Every book has its little stinking points (and these are more the opinion of the reader than real faults) but The Princess Curse surprised me from beginning to end. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in some time and it leaves room for a squeal, if Merrie Haskell is so inclined. I found The Princess Curse to be a fantastic read and recommend it to anyone who enjoys their fairy tales with a little twist.