Review: Princess of the Beans

Though it's been slow going, I've been trying to read all the promo releases from National Tell a Fairy Tale Day while still keeping up with newer books. The next one on my list was Princess of the Beans by Sarah Beran, a retelling of both "Rapunzel" and "Jack and the Beanstalk." I thought this was such a creative idea because both stories involve climbing tall towers, but unfortunately, Rapunzel's tower was not located at the top of a beanstalk in this version. Still, it was a sweet little romance story about rescuing a damsel in distress, with some heavy-handed Christian messaging mixed in. As the second book in a series of fairy tale adaptations called The Order of the Fountain, this story begins with a summary of the first book in the series that I found a little convoluted. There are plenty more books in the series after this one, so I hope the world and characters continue to improve.

The first few chapters of this book were the roughest. Sarah Beran uses this space to establish the world and summarize the first Order of the Fountain book, Second Star to the Right. The series revolves around a spy organization in which all of its members take on code names to uncover problems within fairy tale kingdoms and fix them internally. The part that I had the most trouble with is that their spy names all just happen to be classic fairy tale names by coincidence even though the characters in this world are unaware of the classic fairy tales. It seems like she was going for a Once Upon a Time situation where everyone has two identities. It didn't really work here because all of the second identities in Once Upon a Time are ordinary names of people living ordinary lives, not tongue-in-cheek references to characters that the audience would recognize instantly. The main character's code name is "Jack" because he is a jack of all trades and obviously because of "Jack and the Beanstalk." The story really takes after he veers away from the characters in the first book to begin his own journey.

Rapunzel, which thankfully was not a code name in this book, is a classic damsel in distress who was captured by a wicked pirate named Lesard and forced to tend to the magic beans that he wants to use to gain immortality. He chose the lost princess Rapunzel for this task because the beans respond better to royalty for some reason and because Rapunzel is an expert herbalist. Not wanting to accept her fate, Rapunzel begins piecing together every scrap of fabric she can obtain in her tower prison to build a rope to escape, similar to the silver ladder that the original fairy tale character sews after she meets the prince. Unlike the fairy tale character, this Rapunzel does not have impossibly long hair and looks closer to the Barbie version with uncommonly long hair that is a plausible length. Jack discovers her first failed escape attempt and visits her after that on a regular basis to help her come up with a more successful plan and overthrow Lesard's evil tyranny.

My favorite thing about this book is the love story, which is charming and easy to grasp. While Jack likes to fly by the seat of his pants, Rapunzel is a planner. This message is overstated quite a bit throughout the book with Jack constantly saying "I didn't think ahead." It is easy to see how the two complement each other. Rapunzel's planning prevents another botched escape attempt and allows Jack time to round together a team to stop Lesard. I also like how the book had a classic villain that was easy to hate and provides a clear obstacle for the main characters to overcome. I wish it had a little more whimsy since there was no beanstalk that grew up the sky and no hair that spanned the length of a tower, but I'll take what I can get. While I wasn't a huge fan of the world or the Christian propaganda throughout the book, it was a sweet love story.

Overall, Princess of the Beans is a simple damsel-in-distress rescue mission that combines two beloved fairy tales with a compelling romance. The mechanics of the world are questionable at times, but they hold together well enough to build a foundation for the other fairy tale adaptations in the series. I would recommend this book to people who prefer fairy tale adaptations that focus more on romance than fantasy and are in the mood for something light and quick. The characters have a lot of personality and play well off each other, making for an easy and relaxing read.


Sugar said…
Sounds good! there are few romantic Christian fantasy books (not as many as I'd like to choose from) and few of the "clean" kind compared to the steamy ones so it's good to find authors.

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