Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Found via: Bookends

Last year (exactly), I reviewed Princess of the Midnight Ball and was...less than impressed. I knew lots of people who loved it, but I could never get into the story myself. So I had no intention of picking up the companion/sequel Princess of Glass. A woman can only take so much disappointment, right? But people were again raving, and this one picks up my favorite fairy tale so I finally caved and gave it a chance.

Princess of GlassAfter the events of Princess of the Midnight Ball left several (male) heirs to various kingdoms dead and a war was narrowly averted, the monarchs from the neighboring kingdoms have proposed a royal exchange program for their eligible children. Hoping to rebuild alliances and maybe find a royal spouse, the Westfallin princesses are part of the exchange program, too. Poppy has been sent to Bretoner, where she's not the most popular person. but is being hosted by a lovely family with a daughter close to Poppy's age.

After spending every evening of her life dancing, Poppy has no interest in dancing ever again. However, as a gracious guest she still agrees to attend the various balls - usually choosing to play cards with the men who don't dance. Though Prince Christian, another exchange royal, is just handsome and kind enough to make her reconsider her stance - until the mysterious Lady Ella starts showing up at the balls, dressed to outshine royalty in her glass slippers and extravagant gowns and captivating every male eye in the room. Especially Prince Christian.

No stranger to magic, Poppy is sure Ella is using some sort of enchantment, and also recognizes that Ella may not be a willing participant. Teaming up with Roger, a member of Bretoner's gentry who knows a little something about magic himself, the pair set to work to find a way to counter Ella's spell and rescue her from her enchantment before it's more than just her shoes that are spun from glass.

Maybe I had low expectations going into this, but I ended up really enjoying Princess of Glass. I've read dozens of Cinderella re-tellings, but this one still found a way to be fresh and add new twists to the tale. I love the allusions to different versions of the tale (I've always liked the stories where Cinderella has three balls to attend, and sure enough Lady Ella has three balls in which to ensnare the prince), and the explanations for the glass slippers and why a man can lose all of his sense and fall in love at first sight.

Poppy may be one of my favorite princesses ever. I personally would much rather be playing cards and swearing colorfully than dancing. After being cursed to dance, it makes perfect sense that a ball would be hell for her, but instead of sitting aside like a wilting wall flower, she's found a way to entertain herself and still be part of the festivities. Choosing her as the protagonist not only gives a direct tie-in to Princess of the Midnight Ball, but also further separates this story from other versions of Cinderella. The story is told from a third person omniscient perspective, so we do get to see bits and pieces from Eleanora/Ellen/Lady Ella's perspective, but most of the time we're with Poppy. Snarky, (relatively) vulgar, Poppy.

As a bonus, like Princess of the Midnight Ball, knitting patterns are included at the end. I know nothing about knitting (I've always stuck to crochet), but it's an interesting addition!

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