Osterlund, Anne. Aurelia (2008). 246 Pages. Penguin. $8.99
The book opens with the stealthy removal of a body from a palace. It is revealed that the body is that of the princess’s meal taster and that this is not the first attempt on her life. A fascinating start.
Enter Aurelia, the crown princess of Tyralt, the stereotypical free-spirited-princess-stuck-in-the-confining-palace. She is oblivious to the plot against her life, and has few concerns beyond being free spirited and refusing the suitors her father has selected. Cue Robert, Aurelia’s childhood friend, returned to the palace to investigate the assassination attempts. Aurelia is interested in Robert, Robert is interested in Aurelia, but of course, there are other issues at hand, like the several attempts on Aurelia’s life.
Aurelia’s father is distant and uncaring, her sister incredibly “perfect,” her stepmother “wicked.” We have all of the archetypes of a classic fairy tale accounted for. The plot does not follow any particular fairy tale plot, and does not have a typical fairy tale ending.
The setting is strange, and never explained to satisfaction. There is a hint that there is a school system of sorts set up, and that Aurelia went to school with the other palace children (I had trouble believing this). It is hinted that this kingdom is coastal, and that Aurelia’s cousin controls a kingdom down the coast. It is stated that there are “Outer Realms,” but though they exist, nothing es explained except that immigration from them is forbidden. There is a desert controlled by tribes, but nothing besides their horses are considered important enough to talk about. There is a frontier which is hard to get to or from, but little is said about that.
The characters remain flat and fail to develop. Aurelia is beautiful but doesn’t think so- she calls herself plain, upsetting Robert- and “feisty” if you can call whining and sneaking out of the palace feisty. Aurelia’s younger sister Melony is the blond haired blue eyed beauty who strings along many young men, and does not have any appearances beyond her coming out party at the beginning, and her role in the climax at the end. Elise, the queen, is presumably beautiful, but she is greedy, selfish, and does not care for her stepdaughter. Aurelia’s father is distant, and cares only about pleasing his wife and marrying Aurelia off.
The murder mystery feels like it’s going one way abruptly takes a turn in an unexpected, unforeshadowed direction. Perhaps I am not good at unraveling murder mysteries, but mostly I feel like it wasn’t there.
As a whole, the book shows promise which is not fulfilled.
The Quick Version:
It is not well written, the characters are undeveloped. The surface of this story is interesting, but it is not executed well and remains shallow. There is no good why for any character except Robert, who is driven by his love for Aurelia. It scores a 2 of 5, because the murder mystery aspect resolves itself in a surprising way.