The Princess Curse and Collect All 21

It’s two-for-one bookchat time, starting with The Princess Curse [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Merrie Haskell. Just as I was wrapping up my princess series, Mer came along with her YA retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I guess it’s a rule now: there must always be one Michigan author writing fairy tale retellings. Makes me wonder who she’ll pass the tiara to when she moves on to something new.

Anyway, the story is set in the fifteenth century in the fictional Romanian kingdom of Sylvania. Reveka is an apprentice herbalist, though thanks to her studies, she’s as skilled and knowledgeable as her master, if not moreso. She’s determined to break the curse on the twelve princesses and use the reward money to gain a position as an herbalist for an entire abbey.

For those unfamiliar with the fairy tale, the twelve princesses disappear every night, returning in the morning exhausted, their shoes worn to tatters. All who try to watch and see where they go fall asleep. In Haskell’s version, it’s a sleep from which they never awake, a coma which eventually leads to death.

This is basically a two-act book. In the first half, we follow Reveka’s investigation into the curse, an investigation which grows more urgent as people she knows and cares for fall into the cursed sleep, and neighboring kingdoms prepare for war upon Sylvania. Act two takes on a more mythological and otherworldly feel … and that’s about all I can say without spoiling things.

The Princess Curse is a fast read. At times, some of the complexities of the warring kingdoms and such felt a bit rushed, and I occasionally lost track of secondary characters (it’s hard to keep track of twelve princesses, let alone everyone else). I suspect this was in part due to its being written for a YA audience.

I like Reveka a lot, and not just because Reveka could totally be a goblin name. She’s smart, determined, impulsive, and very human. Her study of herbalism and the way she applies her knowledge to various problems adds a lot to the story. She is in many ways a scientist in a fantastic world. I approve :-)

So if anyone here is into fairy tale retellings with smart, independent heroines, I’d suggest heading over to Harper Collins to check out the first three chapters.

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John Booth sent me a copy of his book Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek [Amazon | B&N] a few weeks back. This is a fairly short book, available both in print and electronic form, which basically talks about Booth’s history with Star Wars: the movies, the toys, the interactions with friends and family, and so on.

I suspect Booth and I are roughly the same age, and his stories stirred some nostalgic memories as I read. I found myself thinking back to the original Star Wars Luke Skywalker figure I owned, with the yellow lightsaber that promptly lost its skinny tip. Then when Empire came out, Luke came with a detachable lightsaber and a gun instead of the lightsaber that slid up into his arm, and that was THE MOST AWESOME THING IN THE WORLD!

I wasn’t as obsessive a collector as Booth, but the book was a nice trip back to childhood, with a few rather touching memories.

The only bit that didn’t work for me was “The Dark Times,” a story that felt more about a dysfunctional romantic relationship than Star Wars.

Overall, a quick, light, but fun read, one that made me wish I still had my Large Size Boba Fett Action Figure. Man, that was the coolest toy ever. And he’d be just the right size to hang out with my Optimus Prime…

Details and an excerpt are available here.