Review: The Golden Ball

Since I enjoyed The Scarred Prince by Erika Everest as much as I did, I was eager to read and review the next book in the Kingdoms of Fable series, The Golden Ball. This book is a charming novella that combines several fairy tales with the main spotlight on "The Frog Prince" and "Swan Lake." It is every bit as compelling as The Scarred Prince, though it was a different story with a different type of protagonist. I thought it was an interesting choice to combine two fairy tales that both involve transformation sequences. To avoid having a bunch of sentient animals running around, the author only kept the physical transformation from one of these fairy tales. I think that was the right decision, though it would have been fun to see a swan and a frog interact together like Odette and Jean-Bob did in the animated Swan Princess movies. Another magical twist to the tale is that the main character in The Golden Ball also happens to be the daughter of "The Snow Queen."

The Golden Ball by Erika Everest

Asha (Natashya) is a shy Russian-coded princess with social anxiety who would do anything for her friends. She is trapped under the same spell as Sienna from the prequel, The Scarred Prince, which causes her to enter a magical dream world at night and meet with the other princesses from upcoming books in the series. Asha trusts Sienna's leadership skills to guide her when they learn that their friend Odette was put under a curse and replaced by the wicked duchess Odile. Asha disguises herself as a servant to infiltrate the secrets of the palace and find the real Odette, who has been turned into a swan. Along the way, she attracts unwanted attention from Odette's cousin, Tobias, who throws himself at her, believing that she is a servant who must succumb to his demands. When Odette entrusts Asha with a golden ball that will prove her story to the court, Tobias gets his grubby hands on the ball and holds it hostage, forcing Asha to date him if she wants it back.

The one flaw I found with The Golden Ball is the same as its prequel, The Scarred Prince. Erika Everest is able to create such interesting and relatable princess heroines that the princes they fall for never seem to meet the same standards. This book had two royal couples in it, and both of them contained inferior princes who did not deserve the love of the princess they sought. Asha's brother, Alexei, claimed to have feelings for Odette, but never noticed that she had been replaced by an imposter until Asha pointed it out to him. Tobias was just awful to Asha throughout most of the book, trying to take advantage of her at every opportunity and obsessing over her to the point of coming off as a creepy stalker. The author did this to make him a metaphorical frog through his behavior instead of turning him into a physical one, as there was already another character cursed to become an animal. However, doing so made him less worthy of Asha's affections even if he did prove himself at the end. I would say this book was more about friendship than romance, and it succeeded in that respect.

Another aspect of the story that I would have liked to see expanded upon is Asha's powers. She is the daughter of the Snow Queen and has magic over ice and snow, but it is never the main focus of her story. I think this is both good and bad for different reasons. On the one hand, it tells a more human story than Frozen did by not making Asha obsessed with controlling her powers and trying to use them to solve her problems. On the other hand, it is mentioned so rarely throughout the book that I actually forgot she had them by the climax. Granted, having ice powers isn't going to do much to help turn her friend from a swan back into a human, but I would have liked to see her use her magic a little more throughout the book for small things just as a reminder that she still has it. Her powers are a part of who she is, so it doesn't seem realistic for her to never use them or think about them. Still, the fact that she used them so rarely contributed to her relatability as a character.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fairy tales or knows what it's like to be an introvert. It demonstrates that it's okay to feel uncomfortable around crowds and that friends don't always agree with each other. There were so many different fairy tale elements that it felt more like an original story than an adaptation, just like its prequel. The Golden Ball works fine as a standalone book for this series since there isn't anything in it that requires you to know what happened in The Scarred Prince. It is not a strong love story, but it is a beautiful tale about friendship and trust that makes me eager for more books to come out in the Kingdom of Fables series so I can learn about the other princesses who meet at night in the dream world.

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