Thursday, December 11, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock

Plot Summary: With her parents lost to unknown assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia, who is intent on marrying her off to the first available "specimen of imbecilic manhood." Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire . . . But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat facing the castle and indeed the entire country. Can Princess Ben save her kingdom from annihilation and herself from permanent enslavement?

This author also wrote DAIRY QUEEN and THE OFF SEASON, both of which I loved. But PRINCESS BEN somehow missed the mark. I think this is largely because the style of all three stories were written the in the same way. I think it worked for DQ because the life of a girl on a dairy farm is pretty quiet and boring. Plus, the main character wasn't a girl of action, so it worked that she told us everything. But Princess Ben is different, so this style didn't work for her.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Princess Ben, real name Benevolence, doesn’t seem to have a consistent character. I think the author knows her really well, and could answer any question I might throw at her. But, for some reason, it didn’t come across on the page. Sometimes she appears sedate and accepts abuse by servants. Other times she’s outspoken and undefeatable.

From the beginning, we’re shown that she’s precocious, possibly a little spoiled. In the end, we find out that she was very spoiled and she overcame it. But, in between, there wasn’t much to show us her progression. Her actions were not consistent with a grieving, spoiled girl. Actually, there wasn't much action at all, which means there wasn't much to show me her real character, and I couldn't identify with her. Which makes me kind of sad, because I loved the main character in DQ so much.

My other issue is that the voice was a bit flat. It’s actually consistent with the narrator (Princess Ben as an old woman), but, for me anyway, it didn’t work. I was expecting a fresh and young voice, but got an old one with too much wisdom inserted in convenient places. I think the author should have searched within herself for a voice and style that fit this story, instead of using the same thing that fit DQ.

This was still an enjoyable read, and I think part of why I didn’t like it more is because I had higher expectations after reading DQ. I’ll still read more of Ms. Murdock’s work, but this one isn’t going on my shelf.

12 comments:

Marcia said...

Very thoughtful comments, Tabitha. I haven't read this one, but I've read DAIRY QUEEN. And I really like your comment about expecting something higher with a later book. We have to keep raising the bar for ourselves. My upcoming Monday post alludes to this same thing -- moving beyond what we've already done.

beth said...

I like this review--I had been planning on getting this book, but maybe I'll put it lower on the TBR pile...

Gottawrite Girl said...

Tabitha, THANKS for another wonderful review. You are a voracious reader, to say the least, and a wonderful example to keep up the priority of reading!!!!

Be well, and talk soon!

C.R. Evers said...

Great review. I don't think I've read anything by this author yet. I think I will. Thanks!

Christy

PJ Hoover said...

You read a ton! I plan to catch up on a bunch of reading over the holiday!
Nice review!

Christina Farley said...

I have Dairy Queen on my bedside table to be read. Very interesting comments on this book. Thanks for sharing!

Sheri said...

Isn't reading the best way to learn!

Tabitha said...

Marcia - yeah, I think many authors get published with what is their best work. Then the second novel comes out, which was really their first novel, and it's disappointing. I'm hoping that's a mistake I won't make. :)

Beth - thanks! It's an enjoyable read, but nothing to go leaping for. IMO, anyway. :)

GWG - yeah, I see reading as part of my writing process. If I know what's out there, I can learn from other people's mistakes, as well as their successes. I only wish there were more hours in the day so I could read more. :)

Christy - Dairy Queen is a fabulous read! You should definitely pick that one up. :)

PJ - excellent! Hope to read some good reviews on your blog! :)

Christina - DQ is a really fun book, which I loved. Though I have family that lives on farms (not dairy farms, though), so it was easy for me to relate. :)

Sheri - it sure is! I'd be lost if I didn't read. :)

Mary Witzl said...

I would like to read this book, but I know what you mean about second books not living up to first books. It seems as though once a writer has written one book, the pressure is on her to produce another one quickly. Readers expect the same caliber writing and that must be hard to live up to! I wonder if I could turn out work of a sufficiently high quality -- and I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I actually need to worry about that...

Anne Spollen said...

Yes, Tabitha, I know exactly what you mean about the "wisdom" voice. My kids throw those books down and say, "Yik, it's one of those lesson books" -- they pick up on it instantly.

Tabitha said...

Yep. Kids can see that coming a mile away and know it for what it is. I think many people underestimate their capabilities. Shame, really.

Tabitha said...

Mary! I missed your post!

I wonder about that too. I wonder if it's someone cranking something new out, or if it's something that was pulled out of a drawer. Either way, often the second book isn't the same quality as the first. I hope to never fall into that trap. :)