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.