Friday, March 7, 2014

Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup

Princess Adela would much rather pull weeds than pour tea. Unfortunately, her opportunities to garden are shrinking rapidly, as her father turns over her education to her kind but conventional stepmother. So Adela jumps at the chance to visit the famous gardens of Lady Hortensia, even if there are rumors that she might be a witch and even if it means dressed up and being, sigh, sociable. Once there however, Adela finds out that magic isn't a fairy tale after all, especially that whole "being transformed" bit. She'll need the help of a group of unusual allies to defeat the wicked witch and change the course of her whole life.

This is a serviceable, if not especially inspired, fairy tale-ish fantasy. Adela is a briskly commonsense heroine and her friends, especially the jackdaw who is enchanted...but definitely not an enchanted prince! are nice touches. It just didn't grab me for some reason. I've read and enjoyed a lot of period fairy tale and fantasy retellings where the characters aren't historically accurate - E. D. Baker spring to mind - but somehow this just plodded for me. The ending felt a little overly messagey and didactic as well.

Verdict: If you have fans of E. D. Baker, Jessica Day George, Kate Coombs, Patricia Wrede, and M. M. Kaye's Ordinary Princess who just can't get enough of the "not your typical princess" trope, this is a light and fun read that they'll enjoy. I don't think we really need any more of this genre though, and the cover is a real deal-breaker for me. The giant black bird blotting out the garden, the fuzzy photographed princess, it just looks wrong.

ISBN: 9780763656850; Published 2013 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013

No comments: