Review: Ellie and the Prince/Faraway Castle

The authors I started following from the Entwined Tales Launch Party led me to the discovery of a brand new fairy tale book series, Faraway Castle by J. M. Stengl. As it turns out, her writing style is a perfect match for me. Her books are fast-paced and take place in a magical yet modern setting with a light-hearted tone and lovable characters. The series kicks off with two introductory novellas that can each be completed in about an hour. Cinder Ellie sets up Ellie's backstory for the first novel, Ellie and the Prince, and The Little Siren, which is available for free upon signing up for the author's mailing list, introduces a romance between a mermaid and a human that will take place in the second official novel in the series, The Siren and the Scholar. There is so much to love about this series that I'm not even sure where to begin.

Ellie and the Prince, the first official novel in the Faraway Castle series, tells the story of Ellie Calmer, who was selected to help keep the magical creatures at Faraway Castle under control thanks to her supernatural abilities to calm others with the sound of her voice. Her specialty in this role, as introduced in the prequel, Cindere Ellie, is trapping "cinder sprites," small rodent-like beings that burst into flames when they are scared or intimidated. As a magical animal rights activist of sorts, Ellie invents a spray that puts out the creatures' fires while still allowing them to stay alive. She contains the cinder sprites in small glass capsules to make sure they can't harm anyone with their fiery mischief so the guests at Faraway Castle remain happy during their stay. The castle itself is more of a vacation resort for royalty than an actual royal castle. As an employee there, Ellie sees guests come and go and makes sure that the magical beings that only she and a small handful of other people can see don't disturb anyone.

Even though the story takes place in a world of royalty and enchantment, the setting is surprisingly modern. The characters are often described as wearing clothing such as jeans and t-shirts. I thought that was a clever idea that made the world of Faraway Castle very unique. If princess stories take place in other worlds that are full of magic, why must they always be set during the medieval or Rennaissance era? After all, they aren't meant to be historical fiction. Faraway Castle is set in a very gentle fantasy land devoid of terrifying monsters or dark mages. It reminded me of the land of Avalon from the series Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders or Centopia from Mia and Me, a friendly world full of magic and wonder that would be a lot of fun to visit. This type of pleasant escapism is exactly the sort of thing I look for in my fantasy tales.

The princes of J. M. Stengl's world also have more of a modern appeal than the vapid Prince Charmings of the past. Today's generation prefers men who are gentle and nerdy and willing to let women take the initiative. That is exactly how Prince Omar behaves. Even though he clearly has feelings for Ellie, he is too nervous to talk to her and tries to place himself in as many situations as he can where she would need to talk to him to make it easier for him to cope with his anxiety. Though Ellie is aware of his feelings, she tries to be as standoffish as possible because she doesn't feel that she is worthy of a prince as a mere servant of Faraway Castle. This makes for an adorably awkward relationship that is a lot more fun to read about than a charming prince sweeping a beautiful princess off her feet at first sight. Torbjorn and Kamoana from The Little Siren behave in a similar demeanor. I found their romance even more enjoyable because I love stories about supernatural beings falling in love with ordinary men.

There is so much to love about the world of Faraway Castle. The books are full of magic, wonder, cute, awkward romance, and read quickly during a busy day. They are the perfect escape from the monotony of everyday life. The next book in the series, The Siren and the Scholar comes out next week! I am extremely eager to read about how things turn out for the lovely siren Kamoana and her nerdy boyfriend, Torbjorn. If you're looking for a light-hearted escape from everyday life, you should absolutely check out the Faraway Castle series by J. M. Stengl. It's just like our world but better because it's filled with fantasy and fun.


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