Review: The Princess Pact (and Novellas)

After reviewing The Princess Fugitive last week and seeing how much notably better it was than The Princess Companion, I found myself hooked on Melanie Cellier's Four Kingdoms series. I have completed the next three books in the series, Happily Ever Afters: A Reimagining of Snow White and Rose Red, The Princess Pact: A Twist on Rumpelstiltskin, and A Midwinter's Wedding: A Retelling of The Frog Prince. Though The Princess Pact is the third full-length novel in the series, the two novellas act as the perfect bookends to link it to the second and fourth novels, respectively. I was pleased to find that the pacing and suspense in all three books were fairly consistent with The Princess Fugitive, and the links between the protagonists made each new story feel more welcoming than the last. The more I read the series, the more it feels like coming back to visit a beloved land instead of exploring a strange and unfamiliar one.

The Princess Pact tells the story of Marie, who was first introduced in The Princess Companion as an ally to Alyssa. She is a princess who never quite looks as much like a princess as she is supposed to. In this book, she learns why that is. It's a whole lot closer to the story of "Rumpelstiltskin" than The Princess Fugitive was to "Little Red Riding Hood." Marie's mother is the miller's daughter who married into royalty when she demonstrated that she could spin straw into gold, and Marie is the child who was promised to Rumpelstiltskin in return. The twist, however, is that Marie is not the queen's daughter, but rather Rumpelstiltskin's. This revelation is earth-shattering to the teenage princess and places a rift between her and her family that takes the remainder of the book to mend.

The villain, who is known as "R" for most of the story, takes on a role reminiscent of another famous fairy tale character, the Pied Piper. He uses an enchanted jewel to lure all the children away from their parents and into his rebel camp, giving it a bit of a Hunger Games feel. The jewel's hypnotic power is similar to that of Jafar's staff from Aladdin. This enchanted jewel was used first by the villain in the preceding novella, Happily Ever Afters, which focuses on the adventures of the two merchant cousins from The Princess Fugitive, Sarah and Evelyn. Unfortunately, the villain in that book is not very interesting compared to Rumpelstiltskin, but it does foreshadow a taste of the jewel's powers and where it came from before Marie got involved with it.

I enjoyed the romance in The Princess Pact even more than The Princess Companion or The Princess Fugitive. Marie falls for a handsome adventurer named Rafe who helps her to locate Rumpelstiltskin's rebel camp. Rafe and Marie have an adorably awkward chemistry when they first meet. Their feelings toward each other become more intense as they become entangled with R's schemes must work together as spies. Since they are the only ones who are not under the jewel's spell, it is imperative that they are able to trust each other, and that trust quickly develops into something deeper. Rafe also becomes fast friends with Marie's playful brother, Prince William, who shares his thirst for adventure.

The novella A Midwinter's Wedding takes place right after The Princess Pact and tells the charming story of Rafe's sister, Cordelia. The story is based on "The Frog Prince," but it is thematically closer to "Beauty and the Beast" because it shows that true love sees past appearances. Though Ferdinand's nickname is "Major Frog," he is very much a human throughout the entire story, albeit a disabled one. There appear to be no talking animals within the universe of the Four Kingdoms, though fairy godmothers are quite prevalent. Cordelia's love story is touching, and the conflict in A Midwinter's Wedding is far more interesting and exciting than the Happily Ever Afters novella.

I love that each heroine in the Four Kingdoms series has her own unique strengths and weaknesses. Though these three books did not quite match the level of suspense from The Princess Fugitive, they made me feel fully engrossed in Melanie Cellier's world as I learned more about the cultures of each kingdom. Seeing characters from previous books make guest appearances and meet for the first time made all the princesses in this universe feel like one big family. I wanted to celebrate all their happy occasions with them and feared for their safety when they were in danger. Each love story was more compelling than the last, and I enjoyed reading about the ups and downs of their weddings in the two supplementary novellas. The final book in the series is The Princess Game, which I will be reviewing shortly, followed by the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series, which is still in progress.


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