I am a 21st century romantic cynic who cannot live without fairy tales and “they lived happily after” endings. Any book that promises to hold fairy tale like characteristics makes my cynical heart jump around in little circles. Therefore it is no surprise that with a title like Princess Ben my attention was immediately captured.
I’m pretty sure I stumbled upon Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch at my local library on holiday from University. When I picked up the book I did not know that I had discovered a gem of a fairy tale. On the face of it, the story looks to shape up as predictable as any other female empowerment fairy tale. There are some similarities to the classic fairy tales of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and even Mulan. However, that is the end of the similarities to those classic Princess tales.
In a nutshell, Princess Ben (short for Benevolence) is not the typical delicate Princess. She is stubborn, opinionated and has eaten more than her fair share of pastries from the royal kitchens making her rather more rotund than the average Princess. She is doted on by her parents and is as happy as a clam…until her parents are killed by assassins or is it an attack by a savage dragon? – kingdom opinion is divided on this point… After her parents’ unfortunate demise Princess Ben is now the ward of the emotionless Queen Sophia. Locked in one of the castle’s towers Ben discovers a hidden enchanted room. She learns to her surprise that she has a gift for healing and elemental magic; Ben starts her secret magical education including riding on a broomstick, and experimenting with fire spells. But her private adventures are soon overtaken by a mortal threat to her kingdom from the neighboring kingdom of Drachensbett, led by the young and arrogant Prince Florian. Now it is up to Princess Benevolence to save the country, her crown, and herself… but can she do it?
My favorite moments are found in part two and three of this book. In part two, Ben learns more about her magic through many humorous adventures and misadventures helped along the way by a sassy magical mirror. Along with her magical training she is learning to be a proper Princess with lessons that resemble a royal boot camp presided over by Queen Sophia that include dancing, deportment and diplomacy.
In part three, Ben finds herself in a bit of a pickle when she is captured by her kingdom’s enemy’s army that is led by the haughty (but of course, gorgeous) Prince Florian. The lessons she learns about her “enemies;” as she is treated as a lowly kitchen servant who is nicknamed Piglet, eventually ends up helping her save her kingdom. The interactions between her and Prince Florian during this time are my favorite – the antipathy between her and the Prince is so fun to read – the “loathe-to-love” romances cannot be beat in my literary opinion.
It was difficult for me to write about this nostalgic favorite, since I would spoil it too much if I added more details about my favorite parts. I could probably go on for another 1000 words, but instead I will end here with a sincere wish that you check Princess Ben out for yourself so we can talk or tweet about it soon!
Is this book rereadable? I want to say ‘yes’ due to my warm and fuzzy feelings for Ben; however for this blog’s purpose…I will rate it a Maybe.
Have you read Princess Ben? Share your thoughts in the comments below if you have. Or leave a comment if you agree that fairy tales and/or “loathe to love” romances are the best!