Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CBR IV Review #6 - Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

“I have to keep knitting,” she said in a low voice. “Because I’m the strong one.” 

Princess of Glass is Day George's re-imagining of the Cinderella tale, and it is an excellent one.  The story follows two girls, Princess Poppy and Eleanora/Ellen/Lady Ella, as well as the prince of Danelaw, Christian.  Princess Poppy is visiting Breton (and obviously English based country) to help international relations, which happens to be why Christian is there as well.  Princess Poppy has a somewhat murky history with magic, as she and her sisters were cursed to dance at Midnight Balls for King Under Stone.  That part of the story is documented in another Day George fairy tale story, Princess of the Midnight Ball, which I'm reading presently.  Poppy fills the reader in on the general details as the story progresses, keeping the truth of why she refuses to dance a secret from the others in the story.  She is wary of magic, as she should be, and knows several powerful charms to keep her safe from it, which prove useful later.

Eleanora has fallen on hard times.  Her family, once amongst the nobility, lost their fortune, and then both of Eleanora's parents died.  As such, she was left with no option but to go into the service and work as a maid named Ellen, which she is terrible at.  Her misfortune, however, leaves her vulnerable to the powers of a godmother known as "the Corley" - but things are never what they seem.  While her new benefactress claims to want to help Ellen go to the ball, woo the prince and live happily ever after, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Christian ends up a pawn in the game, torn between Princess Poppy, who he has developed feelings for that he doesn't quite understand, and this mysterious Lady Ella who appears at the King's balls with such dramatic flair that every man desires her and every woman envies her - but no one knows who she is.

The story is an old one, but told in such a lovely new way that it feels fresh.  You know the glass slippers will play a part, but how they do is both unique and a little terrifying.  The Corley, also, puts a whole new spin on the Fairy Godmother character.  I also think that Ellen is perhaps the most honest representation of the Cinderella character.  She's a little whiny and put upon, and her desperation to return to her "proper" place in the world leads her to make some ugly choices.  That's far more realistic to me than singing happily with birds while you are ignored by a society who has chosen to forget who you once were.

But most interesting to me of all is Poppy.  THIS is a heroine young girls should look up to.  While she had to suffer great trials in her life, she chooses to grow from the experience and by the end of this book, also decides not to be defined by the horrors of her past.  She's the person who leads the charge against the bad magic, and the first one to recognize something is wrong at all.  She refuses to compromise who she is as a person, even if her personality is a little unorthodox for Breton's high society.  She is brave, funny, intelligent, and powerful in her own way and I adored her.

This was a great book, one that was incredibly hard to put down.  I've moved immediately to Princess of the Midnight Ball so I could read more.  I didn't realize until too late that I should have read the two books in the opposite order, but it hardly matters.  While I know how the new one will resolve thanks to reading this one, having Poppy's perspective made me want to know the whole story.  Definitely recommend this book, especially if you love a good fairy tale!

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