Monday, August 16, 2010

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances—and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale—until a hapless servant named Ellen is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

I picked up Princess of Glass purely because I am a) a seriously obsessed lover of fairytales b) I loved Poppy in Princess of the Midnight Ball and c) I was looking for a light read injected with substance, lovable characters, and some delicious fluttery buttery romance. Jessica Day George seemed like the author to deliver, and the blurb was sweet and spunky so I thought to myself, Hey, why not give it a spin?

And well, I suppose you could say I got exactly what I wanted. Partially.

Princess of Glass is an inventive, imaginative spin on the Cinderella story featuring a sinister fairy godmother (slash witch), a hapless, clumsy Ella, a strong, quick-witted princess and the requisite handsome prince. Needless to say, I love the angle that George retold the story from: in a land embellished with European flavour, where magic shimmers just beneath the surface, where fairytales can be lived out—but so can wars and battles. That’s where the story picks up: after the Westfalian-Analousian war, an uneasy, almost fragile peace looms. King Rupert takes advantage of this peace by arranging an international diplomacy exchange program, where the princesses and princes of each nation travel to each kingdom to get a feel of the culture and strengthens ties. But it’s actually a little more complicated than that: one of the (so-called) secret goals of this program is the potential of inter-kingdom marriage, and from there you can practically see the romance unfold. Prince Christian of Danelaw has been sent to Breton, and there he meets Princess Poppy of Westfalin. The classic boy-meets-girl, both are confused about their feelings for each other (but of course, it’s love) and then Cinderella, ahem, Lady Ella arrives to throw a monkey wrench into everything.

Honestly, with that much potential, it could have been a rollicking, awesome read. And for a while, that’s what I was reading: Poppy was fully-realized (still fresh, definitely), the rest of the characters were nicely developed, the prose was alright, splashes of humour brightened the place, and well, it was all fine and dandy. The thing is, though, I wasn’t buying Prince Christian—he seemed a bit dim and a little too one-dimensional for my taste—and when I don’t think the hero is worth the heroine, then I don’t quite buy the romance. And when that romance is put squarely in the centre of the book, I wouldn’t really say I was satisfied. I actually thought another character was more suitable for Poppy and I was rooting for the two of them to get together instead—alas, it couldn’t be. Another character, Lady Ella rang a bit flat as well. So when the revelations hit, I wasn’t particularly interested, or affected by any of them. I wasn’t convinced or sold by any of her actions.

There’s also the whole problem of the big climax. It got a bit too convoluted for my taste, and I was very, very confused. I’m still not entirely sure how the Big Bad Guy was defeated nor did I think the heroes laboured and sacrificed enough for it. I am by no means a bloodthirsty person, nor do I want buckets of violence in my fairytale retellings, but the end just seemed to ring a bit flat to me. I was really looking forward to this book and I was really liking it but that lacklustre ending was enough to leave me with a blank expression on my face and a “What? What?” clamouring to be answered. I did love enough of the book so I’m going to rate this a 3.

Rating: 3 out of 5