Review: The Tower Princess

The Tower Princess by Shonna Slayton turns the Shakespearean story of "Romeo and Juliet" into a beautiful fairy tale. Outside of a certain famous Taylor Swift music video, Shakespeare is not the first place most writers turn to when looking to adapt a fairytale, so it was a breath of fresh air for me. Shonna is a huge fan of fairy tales in general and has a wonderful Facebook group for other fairy tale lovers. Her passion is clear in this book through her intricately fleshed out medieval world and original mythology surrounding it. The prologue alone told an expertly crafted fable that developed an intriguing backstory for the troubled kingdom of Morlaix and those who reside within it. Her poetic use of language and world-building drew me into the story before I even met the main characters.

The setting of The Tower Princess reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Both stories have protagonists whose lands are blocked by a mysterious forbidden wall. In this story, the wall separates the two halves of the Kingdom of Morlaix so that two rival kings can each rule their half the way that they see fit without the need to compromise. For this reason, they make every effort to separate the prince of South Morlaix and princess of North Morlaix to prevent an alliance that would reunite the land. Of course, the wall is not enough to keep the two star-crossed lovers apart. Something magical within it causes it to open up for Gressa, the princess of North Morlaix, and Manny, the secret prince of South Morlaix, revealing a meadow that they use as a private sanctuary to escape the very different struggles in their lives. Through their secret meetings, they learn the truth about the divide between their separate halves of the kingdom.

Aside from the "Romeo and Juliet" setting, Shonna draws inspiration from other fairy tales to weave together the separate day-to-day lives of Gressa and Manny. Gressa leads a life that is vaguely similar to Rapunzel, but without the magical long hair or being separated from her family. As the youngest child of the king and queen and the only girl, her parents choose to keep her in a tower for most of her life because they can't think of a better way to protect her from the outside world or the possibility of her falling in love, especially with the prince of South Morlaix. She is not quite a prisoner, though. Princess Gressa is allowed to leave on occasion to explore the palace gardens, where she discovers the secret entrance to the wall. Manny's story draws inspiration from the tale of The Prince and the Pauper. In order to prevent his son from falling in love with the princess of North Morlaix, the king has him switched at birth with a peasant baby to act as a decoy. Manny is raised by a kind tailor and his wife, who hide the truth about his birth. Even though he does not know he is the prince, Manny is favored by the king and has great accolades bestowed upon his adoptive father's shop, ensuring that he has a good life. This inspires him to train as a squire so that he can one day become a knight and serve the king who was so kind to him.

The premise of two unlikely lovers being brought together by a magical meadow is similar to Pathways, the last book I read, but The Tower Princess does this in a more engaging way by giving both protagonists lots of obstacles that try to them apart. The very circumstances that bring them together occur only because of the actions their parents take in fear that they might one day meet and fall in love. In addition to that, Gressa's wicked brother, Herrick, is the heir to her parents' throne. He always has her worst interests at heart, forcing her to watch her back for him whenever she leaves the tower in case he learns her secret and tries to use it against her. Manny always has hands full at the tailor shop trying to cover for Hoxham, the tailor's lazy apprentice. As much as he looks forward to his visits with Gressa, he often has to perform the work of two people at the shop in addition to his training to become a squire. He has all this on his plate before he even learns about his true destiny.

The Tower Princess is an expertly crafted work of fiction. It draws many elements from other stories while creating a rich and original world that is full of romance, adventure, and poetry. I was a bit surprised to learn that the Fairy Tale Inheritance series was also written by Shonna Slayton because I was never quite able to make it through the first book, Snow White's Mirror. The Tower Princess appears to be part of a new series called Lost Fairy Tales that should hold more appeal for lovers of old-timey fantasy like me. If you adore fairy tales and stories about star-crossed lovers, you should definitely give The Tower Princess a try.


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