Friday, March 9, 2012

CBR IV Review #7 - Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

"Keeping one's hands clean – maintaining one's innocence. Is that not the human way?”

Princess of the Midnight Ball, as you know if you read my last review, precedes the events of Princess of Glass by several years (in story time, not sure in real time and don't feel like looking it up!).  This book is based on the story of the Twelve Princesses, which I will admit I am not at all familiar with.  I studied the Grimm brothers many moons ago for a project, but this tale is not one that I recall.  However, since I had already read Princess of Glass, I knew how the story's basics would unfold.  This didn't really detract from the reading, however, as Day George has such lovely style and creates such interesting characters.

The story, for those who aren't familiar with it, is about 12 princesses (did you guess that part?) who wear out their dancing shoes every night.  The King is mystified as to how they are burning through footwear, as no one has seen the girls leave, and none of them will tell him what is going on.  So he creates a challenge - any visiting prince can marry one of his daughters and become heir to the throne if he can solve the mystery. 

In this telling of the story, the kingdom of Westfalin has just won a rather unpleasant and incredibly long war.  Galen, a young soldier, shows up to the capital to stay with his aunt and uncle, as both his parents perished while on the front.  His uncle, a hard man named Reiner, works as the senior gardener for the King, and Galen starts work beneath him.  This leads him into contact with the young princesses, in particular the eldest daughter, Rose.  Their chemistry is obviously fairly immediately. The story proceeds as it should, with the girls disappearing to their midnight balls without anyone knowing why.  But then the visiting princes start dying as they leave the kingdom, and suspicions arise that the girls are the cause.  The church gets involved (from Roma - again, the kingdoms are based on European countries) and the girls, and Westfalin itself, are in jeopardy unless someone can help them.  It's up to the mysterious young under-gardener to step up and save them all.

I didn't love this as much as Princess of Glass, but I think a lot of that was due to my connection with the characters.  Whereas I LOVED Poppy (and do in this book as well, although she's such a small part of it), Galen and Rose don't inspire the same kind of loyalty in me.  I rooted for Galen, and he was the most interesting character for me, but the dynamic was so different. Rose.  I feel like there was more that could have been done with her character.  She was a little bland for me, and it made it hard to get as invested in her story.  The writing, however, is just as solid and interesting as in the companion novel, and I tore through this book just as quickly.

Something I forgot to mention for anyone interested is that both of these books involve knitting as plot points.  The things that are knit are for protection or other magical uses, and as a nice touch, Day George gives instructions on how to make these projects yourself.  Now, I used to knit once upon a time, but now am only into cross stitching, so I have no idea how easy or not these things are to follow, but I thought it was a nice touch.

Looking forward to more Day George books in the future!  She's definitely made my must-read authors list.

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