Review: Princess of Roses

When you love a book series as much as I love A.G. Marshall's Fairy Tale Adventures, you are bound to come upon a book that you don't love quite as much as the rest. The first three books in this series were just about perfect in terms of creative retellings, relatable characters, and playful references to other adaptations. I cannot recommend them enough. The latest Fairy Tale Adventures release is Princess of Roses, a retelling of the beloved classic "Beauty and the Beast." On its own, this book is a perfectly fine adaptation that expands upon the universe of the series and adds ample backstory to both main characters. However, after being spoiled by the overwhelmingly magical other books in this series, I found this one to be a tad bit lacking. It downplays much of the magic and mystery that I love about the original fairy tale by devoting an extensive section to the realistic and mundane elements of the main characters' lives before they were touched by magic.

Princess of Roses by AG Marshall

Rosemary Mercer is the hard-working daughter of a merchant who must run the shop while her father is away to help her two sisters. Her fiancĂ©, Tonio, runs another local shop, and their marriage is meant to unite their two businesses. If this story doesn't sound like the one you were expecting, that's because the "Beauty and the Beast" section of the book doesn't begin until the halfway point. The elements are all there--the daughter of a merchant with two superficial sisters, a self-absorbed prince, and a father who was sent away on a business deal promising to bring back gifts for his daughters--but as the longest book in the series, Princess of Roses spends an inordinate amount of time developing the characters' lives prior to the curse. Due to A.G. Marshall's skillful writing, the pacing never feels slow in spite of the length. In, the first half of the book, Rosemary's engagement gets broken off, and she unknowingly meets the prince prior to his transformation. These chapters help to build the world to a larger extent than most other adaptations do, but they do not feel entirely necessary to tell this story.

The thing that I missed the most from other "Beauty and the Beast" adaptations that I've read is the mysterious magical element of the castle where the "Beauty" character is held prisoner. Though some have criticized this beloved story in which a maiden falls in love with her captor, most versions portray her being treated well during her stay with fine gowns, grand feasts, and magical servants. In this version, Rosemary is the servant. She makes an agreement with Prince Darian to free her father from captivity in exchange for one year of service in the unfinished new castle that he commissioned. His regular staff has abandoned him due to his gruesome appearance. There are no magical secrets awaiting Rosemary amongst the towering staircases that she must traverse to haul water up to cook for the cursed prince. She has no clothes except for a tattered yellow ballgown that gets covered in sweat and filth from everyday wear and tear. By the time Darian inevitably realizes what he has done by working her to the bone to singlehandedly perform the duties of an entire palace staff, it is almost too late.

At this point, I feel like I'm being harder on this book than it deserves. The setting and descriptions are terrific. I loved the references to the first three books in the series, which were my favorites. Rosemary is a wonderful heroine who teaches Darian the value of hard work, similar to Tiana and Naveen from The Princess and the Frog. The climax is brilliantly executed and packed with all the magic that I wish I had seen throughout the rest of the book. It brings back some of my favorite elements from the first book, Princess of Shadows, by having Rosemary enter the mysterious and dangerous shadow realm to rescue Darian. As bothered as I was with the way Darian treats Rosemary as his servant, it is easy to understand his ignorance due to his upbringing and subsequent regret after he develops feelings toward her. The alternating viewpoints among the chapters give readers an opportunity to grasp the story from both perspectives.

Princess of Roses is a fine adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." It is just not my favorite entry in an otherwise brilliant series that expands upon some of the most underappreciated elements of classic fairy tales in a creative and original way. I enjoyed watching the romance develop between Rosemary and Darian, though I wish the first half of the book did not spend so much time on her relationship with Tonio when I knew they were never going to end up together. It was exhausting to read about Rosemary's trials and tribulations as the sole servant of an enormous castle in a sweaty old dress. If you are new to this series, I would not recommend starting with this book. There were so many wonderful references to the first three books that can only be truly appreciated by reading them first. I guarantee you will not regret it if you do.


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