This reading copy was courtesy of NetGalley.
tl;dr: It’s fine if you’re in the Middle Grade (8-12) age range. Anyone better read will overthink it.
I think the thing I’m most confused about is the target audience versus the actual protagonist age and theme in this book. Isn’t Middle Grade supposed to be the pre-teen era where pimples, cracking voices and training bras are suppose to be the main problems?
On her 16th birthday, Princess Madeline is rudely surprised when her father informs her that she will pick a husband from a selection of royal suitors coming to her ball that night, not unlike how Cinderella’s Prince Charming held a ball to meet all the eligible young ladies in the kingdom. This immediately tells you why she had to be 16; another day closer to Middle Grade and this book won’t have seen the light of day.
Like all fairy tale princesses, Madeline is headstrong and wants to make her own decisions but the King was not hearing any of it because she is clearly a pawn piece to be married off for better kingdom perks. So she runs away, a plan she cobbled together in maybe an hour, and made up the rest of it as she went along. She gets kidnapped by bandits, who menaces her as menacingly as possible with readers whose average ages are just rolling over into the double digits. Which is to say they barely did anything except save her from the trouble of where to run next.
Meanwhile, her love interest is a young knight who fell in love with her at first sight. She wasn’t aware he existed until he won the role as her champion. And naturally they ended up together because he was the least repulsive choice in the end.. Sigh.
I think this novella is fine if you’re young and don’t have very sophisticated expectations in story plots or character development. Here’s a spunky princess with a problem. Here is a princess getting into deeper trouble outside her safe zone. Here comes her knight in shining armour.
I like the spunk and wanting to break out of roles assigned to you by the patriarchy. It’s just that we don’t really get to know the characters enough to sympathise or relate. Perhaps the constrains of the MG category is to blame here, because the writing was actually quite pleasant to read.