Review: Princess of Secrets

I was so impressed with A.G. Marshall's adaptation of "The Princess and the Pea" that I simply could not wait to dive into the next book in the Fairy Tale Adventures series. Princess of Secrets takes place immediately after the events of Princess of Shadows, so it's best to read these two in order. The book starts out with Prince Alaric's brother, Prince Stefan, sneaking away to find Princess Carina so that she can be Lina's maid of honor in her wedding. Carina is the only friend Lina made after being asleep for a hundred years and waking up to find that everyone she knew was gone. Once Stefan sets off on his quest, the book becomes a whirlwind adventure of magic, romance, and fun that is every bit as engaging as its predecessor. I was amazed by how well A.G. Marshall was able to combine the elements of the original "Frog Prince" with mermaids, sea monsters, and more.

Princess of Secrets by A.G. Marshall

If you recall from my review of Princess of Shadows, Princess Carina is from a fierce warrior kingdom and is much smarter than she lets on She goes around in frilly dresses acting like a vapid blonde with no common sense when in truth, she is a spy working for her father, who forces her to keep her true identity a secret, even from the rest of her family. This duel identity that she is forced to live makes her miserable because she can never be her true self in front of anyone. Because of this, it is very difficult to make friends or feel comfortable around anyone. When she met Lina in Princess of Shadows, she revealed a bit of her true self and earned Lina's trust as a friend. She would have been more than happy to attend Lina's wedding if her father hadn't already sent her regrets behind her back.

Prince Stefan, the prince who gets turned into a frog, is Alaric's scheming prankster of a brother with a heart of gold. In the first book, Stefan produced a play that Alaric wrote behind his back, humiliating him, but he did so with the best of intentions. In Princess of Secrets, Stefan disguises himself as a sailor to travel to Carina's kingdom to bring her to Alaric and Lina's wedding so that Lina can be a happy bride. Despite his good intentions, he leaves without telling anyone, has an accidental encounter with some mermaids, and ends up getting turned into a frog. A.G. Marshall is very good at blending humor into her stories, so a wise-cracking goofball like Stefan is the perfect candidate for a hilariously entertaining talking frog. His confidence and bluntness is exactly what Carina needs to break through her guarded exterior.

Another thing I love about this book is how many obscure elements A.G. Marshall incorporates from the Grimm fairy tale, originally known as "The Frog King" or "Iron Heinrich." Unlike the Disney version, which changed a lot of the story, Marshall's book includes the princess's prized golden ball that the frog recovers for her from the pond, but this time with a twist. Carina's golden ball is far from just a toy. It's an enchanted device that she uses to spy for her father. When she drops it, she could have gotten in a lot of trouble if Stefan hadn't recovered it for her. The story even incorporated the prince's servant, Heinrich, who is excluded from most adaptations of the tale. At the end of the Grimm story, it is revealed that Heinrich had three iron bands around his heart that grew from his sympathy toward the prince's curse. In this version, Heinrich is Stefan's tailor who is cursed with three iron bands around his heart by the mermaids in order to prevent Stefan from telling anyone how to break the spell.

The romance in this book was handled so flawlessly that I practically felt myself falling for Stefan through Carina's eyes. In the beginning, Stefan doesn't care for Carina at all because of her vapid facade and only wants to bring her to his brother's wedding to make Lina happy. The more he gets to know her by hiding in her pocket and listening to her private conversations with her father, the more he realizes how much she has to hide from the world and longs to take her away from such a miserable existence. Likewise, Carina has little interest in getting to know a talking frog, but she is intrigued by the potential of using Stefan to prove to her father that magic exists in order to maintain her role as a spy. However, after spending more time with Stefan, she learns what it feels like to be able to talk to someone with no pretenses and starts to develop feelings for him as more than an animal companion. It doesn't hurt that she also loves solving mysteries and is intrigued by his true identity and how he was cursed.

I have to say that A.G. Marshall has quickly worked her way into my heart as one of my favorite fairy tale authors. I love how she stays so loyal to the original stories while breathing new life into them with deeply complex characters and worlds. Both of the books I read by her incorporate a certain level of humor and fun into every chapter to never allow the story get too depressing and always bring a smile to my face. She incorporates magic into her stories in a way that is both believable an captivating. I've never imagined how "The Frog Prince" would work if it had mermaids and sea monsters in it, but after reading this version, I can't imagine it without them! If you love fairy tales and princesses, both Princess of Shadows and Princess of Secrets by A.G. Marshall are must-reads.


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