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Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell

Make sure you stop by here for my interview with Merrie and a chance to win this book!!

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
Get It | Add It
Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (and then some)
328 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by HarperCollins

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling (if silly) curse, and anyone who ends it will win a reward. Reveka, a sharp-witted and irreverent apprentice herbalist, wants that reward. But her investigations lead to deeper mysteries and a daunting choice--will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

I feel like I've been talking about this book non-stop for all of 2013. And really...I kind of have. Every now and then there are books that come along that you expect to like, and hope to love, and that is enough. But sometimes, you pick up a book, and you're pretty confident you're going to like it, and then something happens, some magical, alchemical thing, wherein the book is clearly meant to have permanent space in your brain. You can't really explain it - it might not be the best written book you've ever read, or the most universally praised; it might not even be something you'd feel the same about, were you to read it at a different point in your life. But for whatever reason, at this moment, it's right. It pushes all your buttons. Ticks your boxes. Fills your gaps. You and The Book, sitting in a tree, forever.
And for whatever reason, The Princess Curse was one of those books for me. It's one I know I will reread, probably for a while to come. And because of that, and because I've been talking about it almost non-stop since reading it in January, I kinda don't even know where to begin.

There was something just so engaging and lively about the story, and about the heroine, Reveka, especially. She's exactly what I wanted in a female protagonist as a kid (and still want now) - she's smart and competent, and she has a passion, which always fleshes out a character nicely; she approaches her world intelligently and fearlessly, even when she's scared (and I know that sounds like a contradiction, but you know what I mean). She's not flawless, she's not a Mary Sue, but she is a great heroine to connect to, both age appropriate and smart/relatable for readers beyond that age. She's curious and willful and a little fierce. As a character, she's kinda perfect; I don't know what else I could even ask for.

And Reveka leads us into a really great, memorable world, a sort of Eastern European mdeieval setting that draws on real historical figures and cultural traditions and beliefs of the time to build a great sense of place. Added to this is Haskell's take on the magical underworld of the story, Thonos, which is based in known myth and fleshes the fairy tale - and Reveka's world - in a really enjoyable way. Though most of the story is spent above ground for Reveka, the pieces of Thonos that we do see are gorgeously evocative, incorporating the known and typical underworld aspects of the fairy tale, but expanding it, working in other traditional depictions of underworlds, and playing them off of each other to make something really intriguing. The two worlds play off of each other very well, and it's something I'd love to explore more (she says, crossing her fingers that a second book will come to be).

Also - and I don't want to give anything away here, but - there's an excellent  bit of mash-up going on! I love a good mash-up, and Haskell begins to incorporate some Beauty and the Beast elements at the end that could really be explored in a second book (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease). Sometimes mash-ups can seem chaotic and piecemeal, but Haskell uses the elements of both stories judiciously, along with the pieces of the mythology, as mentioned, choosing the ones that work best together and kind of blending one into another, to make something that seems more effortless and real.

As is clear from this review, there is room to grow into second book - or dare I say series? - and though I'm really hoping that happens because I don't want to be done with Reveka and her world, the book is not necessarily open ended. Things are wrapped up nicely, and one can end this book feeling like it's complete, with the reader given an idea of what Reveka's future will hold. This is nice for the imagination to play with, but also nice because it leaves open the possibility for more of this fantastic world and these fantastic characters, and I know I'm not alone in saying I would truly LOVE to see how Reveka and Frumos interact when she's older.

So if it's not clear, I'm saying: Pick this one up. Read it, love it, share it around. It's definitely worth your time.
And bonus factor: Botany*.

*No, but seriously, though? Am I the only one who gets a little giddy when botany plays a part, especially in a fairy tale? I love me some characters who garden, man...

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Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!


  1. This sounds fantastic. I'll add it to my hold queue a the library--I have a feeling I'm going to have lots of books on hold by the end of this event.

  2. I love this book so, so much. And I'm with you--I want a sequel!!

  3. This book is on my TBR list...I might have to move it up! Great review (and I love the cover!)

  4. I picked this up for my daughter, but I think I might have to read it too!! :)

  5. You make me so excited about this book! The fairy tale elements in it sound intriguing, the main character great, plus there's that gorgeous Jason Chan cover. I *will* get to this book some day!

  6. Hahaha, I get the botany bit. You're not alone. I'm the same with healers or nurses. That was one of my favorite aspects in Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" - the fact that she was a nurse, thrown back 200 years in time.

    Also, I've said it many times before, but your reviews are so inspiring. Pretty much anything you like my brain snatches up and tells me I NEED to buy this. :)

  7. Read it because it was pushed on me (yes Misty, you're guilty), and want to reread it sometime soon!

  8. This book sounds right up my alley. I LOVE a unique and wonderful setting, and the Eastern European influences sound like it'll definitely fit the bill. Great review!

  9. Great review! A young-lively protagonist sounds very appealing to be right now. I'm ready for a light-hearted read.

  10. Now I want to win this book so I read it and see if I feel the way you did. I read everyday and it seems rarly that I find a book that I am WOW about. Thanks

  11. Thank you for your thoughts on this book. Can't wait to see what my girls think of it.

  12. This book has been on my TBR for ages. I need to track down a copy of it.

  13. This sounds like an absolutely adorable book and I've never heard of it before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  14. oh goodness it sounds so adorable I simply must read it!! checking the library website haha
    Pabkins @ My Shelf Confessions

  15. I do love a good curse, silly or not.

    Very helpful thank you.

  16. I definitely enjoyed this book. I liked seeing the 12 Dancing Princesses in a new light, and while I had a few issues with it, I still thought it was a great Middle Grade retelling!

  17. I'm really excited to get my hands on this book,it just sounds so good!

    The botany element definitely draws me in and when that combines with different worlds interacting, well, I'm sold!

  18. Ohhhh, This sound SOO Good! I can't wait to read it! :)

  19. I can't wait to read this! You are so excited about it, it makes me excited too!


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