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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Title: Princess Ben
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Year Published:2008
Type of Book: Young Adult/Fantasy
Pages: 344

From inside cover of book:
"With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire... But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat to her kingdom. Can Ben save the country and herself from foul tyranny?"

I first noticed this book as I was combing the shelves at the local Walden's Bookstore. I was surprised when I saw that it was written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who has written a couple other books, including Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen is also young adult, but isn't fantasy, so Princess Ben was totally unexpected coming from Murdock. I must admit, I was skeptical. I wasn't sure what Murdock's writing would be like as a fantasy writer. I was very impressed though. Princess Ben was an absolutely engaging read: fun, attentention grabbing, and satisfying. Also, the cover art was amazing; it was really eye-catching.

Princess Ben had some obvious main themes, but some I wasn't expecting as well. Magic and a fight against "evil" were expected. But there was a surprisingly well written love story as well. It some ways it was a typical coming of age story, but I wasn't bored by it at all. The magic element was fresh and interesting and Ben herself was immensely amusing.

My only negative comment about the book was that it was a bit rushed at times. When it comes to fantasy, I am more of an epic fan, so Princess Ben could have been a bit longer and it would have been great. I really would have liked to see further development of the love interest and a bit more exploration of magic. It was a bit too tidy for me perhaps.

Ratings (out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing style: 10
Romance: 8
Memorable: 9
Total: 47/50 (A-)

I would recommend getting this book from the library before deciding to buy it. I really liked it, but I'm not sure I would read it again. Or try to force anyone to read it because I loved it that much.


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