The Extra-Ordinary Princess

By Carolyn Q. Ebbitt [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Amelia, princess of Gossling, is nothing like her three older sisters. While they are all beautiful, graceful, clever, and talented, she is awkward, stubborn, and a terrible student. But when the king and queen fall victim of a plague and the girls’ cruel uncle, Count Raven, attempts to seize power, Amelia is the only princess to escape the clutches of his magic. Now she must free her sisters from Count Raven’s spell and rally the people of Gossling to fight back before it’s too late.

I really wanted to like this book. It’s about a redheaded tomboy princess who saves the kingdom! What’s not to like? Unfortunately, it’s…well, it’s just not very good.

Much of the problem lies in the prose itself. It just comes across as really amateurish. Amelia doesn’t sound convincingly like a child, and the book itself is crammed with run-on sentences. Here, try this one on for size:

She lectured to us about any and all subjects that were relevant to our knowledge of the kingdom: the history of sugarcane, the development of the school system, city planning, agricultural development, elimination of mines, social reforms, flooding…Mother’s knowledge was endless—she told us funny stories about our grandfather and sad stories about the wars of the neighboring countries; her lectures were long and filled with facts and large words and statistics.

There is no good reason that shouldn’t be four separate sentences. None. That’s an extreme case, but the sentence right after it is a shorter run-on, which just compounds the sin, and gives you an idea of what slogging through this prose was like.

The plotting isn’t any better. The book rambles on in a non-linear fashion for about the first third. Since the book kicks off with Amelia speaking from a perspective that is clearly after the events of the book, it comes off like someone who wasn’t very good at storytelling reminiscing about their childhood. Once the plot finally gets underway (and it takes a good long while) it’s a pretty straightforward route, but it never really kicks up speed. I was shocked when I got near the end and realized how little was left, since I felt like the action had only just begun (and it was pretty anticlimactic when it did).

Furthermore, even though the bulk of the book is in Amelia’s first person perspective, there are frequent sections from the point of view of another character, or omniscient third. This is confusing at best and irritating at worst, because it gives Ebbitt an excuse to tell us things Amelia has no way of knowing. It feels like a cheat.

Then again, there’s not much Amelia can tell us, because she’s basically useless. She’s absent for first big scene with Count Raven, when he turns her oldest sister into a willow and the middle sisters, twins, into swans. Whenever she’s doing that all-too-common fantasy novel activity of trekking through the woods in search of someone or someplace, her best friend Henry takes the lead, to such a degree that I’m pretty sure he was the actual protagonist of this book. Her nanny comes up with all the strategy. Henry’s godmother takes out the palace guards. When the princesses finally face off against Count Raven, it’s Amelia’s oldest sister who casts the spell using all their magic – and all that does is call their great-aunts, who use their magic to vanquish Raven. All Amelia does is make a speech. I’d like my protagonist to contribute a little more than that, please!

Also, there’s the idiocy of Count Raven’s plan – he turns the oldest princess into a talking tree and the middle sisters into talking swans. The tree, fine, but the swans now have enhanced mobility and the ability to tell people what’s happened to them. Not a great way to eliminate the competition, Raven. Plus, he wants to rule Gossling – but he also wants to make it poor and barren and miserable as revenge against his stepsisters, Amelia’s grandmother and great-aunts. So…you’re going to ruin the kingdom you rule so that you’ll either starve or be easy prey for any neighboring kingdoms in a conquering mood? Um, great plan, dude.

Plus, even though it’s set in a fictional, semi-medieval world, there are references to France and calamine lotion…

I’ll stop. I feel bad nitpicking this book – it’s earnest and has a good hook and is the writer’s first. And to be fair, there’s a very commendable aspect – I love that it’s set in a matriarchal monarchy and has a strong motif about the power of women and sisterhood and mothers passing knowledge on to their daughters. That’s great. But it’s all packaged up with clumsy writing, clichéd, uninteresting characters, and a mess of a plot, and so it gets only one cupcake.

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    4 Responses to “The Extra-Ordinary Princess”

    1. Rebecca says:

      But the cover looks like you! In a fantasy novel! So I’m sorry it wasn’t better.

    2. Carolyn says:

      Blech. Sounds awful.

    3. Carolyn says:

      On the other hand, there is this lovely classic, The Ordinary Princess, about a youngest princess blessed/cursed with the gift of ordinariness : http://www.amazon.com/The-Ordinary-Princess-M-Kaye/dp/0142300853/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337080122&sr=8-1

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