Review: The Princess Curse

My friend sent me The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell after letting me know that she didn't care for it quite enough to keep. Frankly, I can understand why. It fascinates me how many well-written family-friendly princess books there are out there by indie authors when a famous publisher like Harper Collins would release a questionable book like this one through their children's market. I got the impression that the author wanted to write a princess story for adults, but the mainstream media likes to follow the misconception that anything involving fairy tales is solely for children, so they forced her to age down her protagonist and water down the story. Doing so turned the whole thing into a big mess of an adaptation suffering from a severe identity crisis.

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

The Princess Curse is an adaptation of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" and "Beauty and the Beast." Right off the bat, it loses points for doing exactly what every other author who wrote an adaptation of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" has done. Merrie Haskell turns the fantastical underground world of silver trees and handsome princes into an inescapable hell that the princesses need to be rescued from. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" was one of my favorite fairy tales as a child, and I can tell you right now that it was not because I wanted the princesses to find a way out of the enchanting land that they run off to each night to escape their mundane royal duties. I'm not sure if every author who does this is copying the others or if they truly believe that they are being original and edgy. Turning the dancing into a curse instead of a nightly opportunity for freedom makes the story less empowering for girls reading it because it turns the heroines from tenacious sisters who guide each other toward freedom into traditional damsels in distress.

Merrie Haskell did not want to give her readers a damsel in distress as a role model, so the protagonist is not one of the princesses, but an herbalist's apprentice named Reveka who works in the castle. The story is told from Reveka's perspective, but she makes no sense to me. She is a thirteen-year-old girl, who acts like a middle-aged woman. Reveka becomes the princesses' savior by agreeing to marry a dragon-like being called a zmeu who held them captive every night in the underworld. She does this in spite of her desire to spend the rest of her unmarried life in a convent, a decision that she is probably too young to make. After she marries Dragos, the words "child bride" come up a lot. He even makes a point of telling her that she is too young to consummate the marriage. For some reason, HarperCollins decided that in spite of that, this book is A-OK to publish under their children's subsidy. Good job looking out, guys.

Due to Reveka's age and the fact that this book is written for children, she develops an awkward relationship with Dragos that qualifies as neither friendship nor romance. With the "Beauty and the Beast" inspiration behind the book, it's supposed to be implied that she would grow to love him over time, but we don't see that time in the context of this story. I think The Princess Curse would have been fine if had been written for adults (which I suspect was the author's original intention). Due to the aged down protagonist and unnecessarily complex world, something got lost in translation. Not only does the author try to combine two fairy tales, but she also crams Greek mythology and real-world history into this single book. The Princess Curse is a prime example of too many cooks in the kitchen.

I felt like I was reading this book out of obligation and not enjoyment. It's a mess of a story that is never certain what it wants to be. It doesn't have a kid-friendly, but it was published for children. It isn't a love story, but it is about a child bride who is meant to love her captor. It doesn't contain Greek gods or goddesses, but it incorporates Greek myths. It has "princess" in the title, but none of the princesses in the book are particularly likable, and the main character becomes a queen--not a princess--but marrying the dragon. If this is the type of fairy book that professional publishers find marketable these days, I will continue to stick to indie authors; thank you very much.

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