Friday, August 27, 2010

Princess Ben : being a wholly truthful account of her various discoveries and misadventures, recounted to the best of her recollection, in four parts

In this teen coming of age story, Benevolence (Ben) is a princess who has a lot of growing up to do.

Until her fifteenth birthday, she has lived an idyllic life with her loving parents, over the barracks in the castle walls. Her royal parents, Pence, a healer, and Prince Walter, the heir to the throne, have chosen to live there to have a more normal life, away from court rituals and intrigue.

Everything changes just after she turns 15. On the annual anniversary visit to a family tomb, Pence and King Frederick are killed and Walter disappears. Ben, now the heir apparent, is under the (malevolent? benevolent?) thumb of her aunt Sophia, the Queen Regent. The kingdom is under threat by the country next door, the probable assassins of Ben’s family.

Ben’s childhood has not prepared her in any way for court or leadership. Sophia must turn her into a princess worthy of marriage. She begins by having Ben take lessons in dancing, needlework, and other ladylike skills. She forces Ben to eat lightly—Ben does need to lose some weight.

Ben doesn’t like this total change in her life. She sulks. Sulking and other behaviors result in punishment (abuse?) by her aunt. Finally the Queen Regent moves Ben to a bare tower room above her own, a room she cannot get out of to scavenge for food in the night, although Ben does spend the day in lessons and eats with the Queen.

One night after being locked in for the night, Ben discovers a door that can’t be seen in a wall that appears solid. It leads to a dusty, unused room in an even higher tower. On a stand in the room is an open book, amazingly clean. It’s a spell book which becomes a major factor on the road to Ben’s maturity and happiness.

Princess Ben is not, at first, a likable character, but once you’ve started reading, you’ll have a hard time stopping. Fans of the “twisted fairy tale” will enjoy Princess Ben , even though it strays far from the genre.

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