Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. Princess Ben. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 344 pp.

Review by Lina Crowell

Benevolence (Ben), daughter of a prince, is herself second in the line of succession to the throne of the small fictional country of Montagne, her uncle the king having no children. Ben, however, is not your typical princess. She has been raised away from the glamour and elegance of the castle, dresses plainly, and freely socializes with the common people, having often accompanied her mother, a healer, on her visits to the sick. When her parents and uncle fail to return from a day’s outing and are later found dead, Ben, not yet old enough to ascend to the throne in her own right, finds herself being “tutored” by her aunt, Sophia, the Queen Regent who rules in her stead until Ben comes of age. Ben, having never before considered that she would one day rule Montagne, balks at her aunt’s demands that she begin conducting herself more in the manner in which a princess is expected to behave.

Eventually, Ben’s unruly behavior leads to her being banished to a small tower room except for the hours of her schooling. In the tower Ben discovers a hidden and magical passageway leading to the invisible “Wizard Tower” where she finds a spell book and other magical instruments that she uses to secretly teach herself rudimentary magic skills. Through use of her magical abilities, Ben discovers a network of hidden passages throughout the castle and uses these to learn of the queen’s plans for Montagne to secure an alliance with another country by arranging a marriage between Ben and a suitable prince, a plan that does not meet with Ben’s approval, particularly if that marriage is to Prince Florian of Drachensbett, Montagne’s sworn enemy and the most likely suspect in the deaths of her parents and the king. The king of Drachensbett has made it clear that he will invade Montagne if such an alliance is not made. Although Ben believes herself to be as capable as any man, and is not content to wait idly for rescue by a knight in shining armor, she has come to realize that it is through marriage that many political alliances are made and must now decide whether or not to use her skills in magic to save Montagne from impending attack by Drachensbett, a decision that may mean her secret could be exposed, or else give in to Drachensbett’s demands.

Princess Ben is a fine fantasy that works in elements from various fairy tales and that features a strong female protagonist who is not afraid to speak her mind. Recommended for age 12 and up, particularly for those who enjoy light fantasy and/or romance.

1 Comment:

Fourstorymistake said...

I just reviewed this book myself. I loved it too!

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