Tag Archives: rating 2 of 5

The Extra-Ordinary Princess

Ebbit, Carolyn Q. The Extra-Ordinary Princess (2009). 324 Pages. Bloomsbury. $7.99

From the Back Cover:

In the peaceful land of Gossling, there are four princesses. The three older girls are beautiful and talented and very good at everything they do– but not the fourth. Amelia’s unruly red hair, imperfect schoolwork, and disdain for anything prim and proper make her a most unlikely princess.

Then a plague sweeps through the land of Gossling, taking the lives of the girls’ parents. With Amelia’s eldest sister too young to rule, the kingdom is left in the hands of their terrifying uncle, Count Raven. But before Count Raven can cast a spell over them to protect his reign forever, Amelia escapes. Now it seems the fate of her sisters– and the kingdom of Gossling– is in the hands of a girl who will prove she is much more than ordinary.

First Lines:

On the sixth day, the queen lay dying. The afternoon was bright, and the sun peeking through the tightly drawn curtain was strong, though outside the heat of the past ten weeks has broken and it was finally fall.

For four months a terrible illness had spread through the small country of Gossling; it spread quickly through the tiny towns and villages, traveling down the long rivers and over high hills, through the country’s dense forests and into its cities. No scientist, doctor, or scholar knew how the sickness spread or how it might be cured. ….

Thoughts:

If the book had been what was suggested by the back cover, then it might have been brilliant. Indeed, the concept was a solid one; Amelia, youngest of four, struggles with a sense of self, and feelings of inadequacy. Where her sisters are talented, and everything seems effortless to them, Amelia has to work hard. She is not particularly smart, not particularly graceful, and not particularly anything. She is ordinary, and cannot handle her ordinariness.

When the plague comes to the country, Amelia’s parents send her and her sisters away to their summer home in the mountains. Finally, her parents succumb to the disease, leaving Merrill only 7 weeks shy of the 18 years-old that she needs to be in order to rule. Why they could not have disregarded this rule, I do not know. Seven weeks is not so very much difference, frankly.

So anyway, the Evil Uncle comes– you know he’s evil from the beginning, and it only gets more obvious from there. He turns Merrill into a tree, and Lily and Rose into swans. He misses Amelia, because she is still in the summer palace with chicken pox. From here, things take a steep downturn.

Amelia runs off with her friend Henry and her enemy Meg and begins her adventure in a place called the Sunflower Forest. From there, they travel quite a bit, seemingly unperturbed by the forty-day limit they have in which to save her sisters. Eventually, they end up in the Night Forest, a magical place, where Henry is given a prophesy saying that he will save the kingdom (which he never does), and Amelia gets three magical rocks which she can wish on. I put emphasis on the three because she uses it four times. (Once for Henry, once for Meg, twice for different transportation.)

When Amelia and Henry are in the Mountains, they are distressed that there are only three days left, but when they meet their allies after traveling two days, they state that there are 48 hours remaining until the curse becomes permanent.  Time remains an issue through the end of the book, as numbers are simply thrown around “two hours later” “four hours later”, “at two-fifteen in the morning” etc.

On top of all of this, there are many, many fruitless side-plots. Meg is not evil, but spoiled, and she becomes “good”, sort of. Amelia is dyslexic, but it only shows up in one chapter. The plague ends after her parents die, but nobody ever speculates as to its source or purpose, and later in the book, someone mentions checking the progress of the plague. The title “White Queen” is thrown around quite a bit, but at times it seems it is meant to be secret, and at times it seems to be public knowledge. Amelia and her sisters have their own magic, but it rarely manifests itself, except when convenient. Henry is a gardener’s son, but the queen took an interest in him and nursed him herself, making him Amelia’s “milk twin” but this is never really explained.

There is so much going on in this book that at times it seems to lose track of itself, which is unfortunate, because it has a lot of potential. The concept is good, and with a few less distracting side-plots, and some more focus on fixing inconsistencies, it could have actually been a good book. In part, it was the writing, and in part it was the editing which doomed this book to score a 2/5.

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Filed under Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy

Aurelia

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.

Not scared away? Buy it on Amazon, or trade for it on Swaptree.

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Filed under Book Review, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

The Devil Wears Prada

Weisberger, Lauren. The Devil Wears Prada (2003). 360 Pages. Broadway Books. $13.95

Cover: The Devil Wears PradaI never thought I’d say this about a book, but here I am, saying it: skip the book, and watch the movie instead. Anne Hathaway’s Andrea is a far more charming, sympathetic, and interesting character than the Andrea Sachs of this book.

The basic plot* is not so terrible; Andrea wants to be a writer for The New Yorker, a goal which she will do anything to achieve, including taking a miserable job for Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway Magazine. The premise of the book is that a year as Miranda’s assistant will open doors that years of doing legitimate writing will not. Andrea leaps from abuse to drama to abuse, clinging to her holier-than-thou attitude. At the end of the book, she (oh so shockingly) leaves the company to move on to greater things. Big surprise.

The writing is not strong; the characters remain flat and undeveloped, inviting only the barest amount of sympathy from the reader. None of the characters make you root for them, instead Andrea whines and leaves you wondering when she’ll just stop. (The answer, by the way, is page 360.) Miranda is a monster, of course. Her demands are truly unreasonable and she asks more of her assistants than any boss has a right to ask. She makes a great (if sometimes repetitive) villain. She makes a demand, Andrea struggles, Andrea meets the demand, repeat ad nauseam.

Instead of seeing her co-worker, Miranda’s senior assistant Emily as an ally, Andrea sees her as another enemy. “Just fucking shut up already! You march into this office and think you understand everything. Little Miss I’m So Sarcastic and So Above All This! You don’t understand anything. Anything!” (208) Emily screams, and Andrea just doesn’t get it. It occurs to her at one point near the end of the book that if she had ever once seen Emily as an ally instead of an enemy, she could have had a friend and her year would have been less miserable.

There are other scenes in the book which will make most readers roll their eyes:

  • A girl from Newark, New Jersey writes to Miranda about how she’s skinny but hates herself because she is not a Runway model. Andrea– screening Miranda’s mail– finds the letter and decides to grant the girl’s wish and send her a special designer dress because New Jersey just doesn’t have any designer stores and she’s oh-so-deprived. (243-245)
  • Andrea bursts into tears in the office of a stranger because the girl points out that her job sucks. (268) Andrea’s seeming epiphany is that other people think her job sucks, too. Nobody else of the dozens of other characters who have told her it’s terrible apparently count.
  • The entire Runway office shuts down to outfit Andrea to go to Paris with Miranda. (291) Because they lack anything better to do than dress a sarcastic, whiny girl up like a doll.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the whole book, the thing which drives me the craziest, and annoys me more than the shallow, whiny characters, is the fact that Andrea Sachs, a girl who apparently graduated from Brown and is a brilliant writer says “natch” more than once.

The Quick Version:

All-in-all, if you don’t mind removing your brain for a few hours while you read it, the book has its entertaining moments. If you want to enjoy the basic story, watch the film. I’d give it 2 of 5.

Still want to read it? Trade for it on Swaptree or Buy it on Amazon

* The Devil Wears Prada is apparently a roman a clef about the author’s time working for Conde Nast. It is thinly veiled.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Chick-Lit