Angie's Reviews > The Princess and the Hound

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
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Jun 26, 08

bookshelves: retellings, ya
Read in June, 2008

Despite the cover (and title), the princess and her hound are not the main characters in this story. The narrative centers instead on a boy named George. Prince George, to be exact. And Prince George possesses a pack of problems. His mother died when he was young, leaving him alone in the world with no siblings to share his grief and a father who knows how to rule a kingdom but understands nothing of how to be a father. On top of which, George has the dubious gift of animal magic. He can speak their language and feels most comfortable out in the wild, conversing with the animals, than around humans. Trouble is, animal magic is feared and loathed far and wide in George's world and he quickly determines he must keep his talent a secret if he wishes to live long enough to inherit the throne.

When it comes time for George to do his princely duty and marry to preserve the kingdom, he goes forth to meet his betrothed with a strong sense of duty, if not alacrity, for the task at hand. The Princess Beatrice proves to be a particularly fierce young woman whose life has been as bleak as George's own and who has a few painful secrets of her own to guard, as well as a hound she refuses to be separated from. It's clear to the reader from the moment these two meet that they need each other desperately and would do well to stick together, that is if either of them could see past their own troubles long enough to recognize what's standing right in front of them. Beatrice, however, shows even less interest in the match than George, and the two of them are rarely ever in the same room together long enough to go about the business of getting to know each other. And marriage negotiations aside, there is a truly creepy mystery running throughout the book, to do with a potentially mad doctor moving from kingdom to kingdom bent on revenge.

Yep, it's a recipe for success. And it succeeds...for the most part. I liked the dark, creepy feel that pervaded the majority of the story. This is not a gentle fairy tale, by any means. Characters such as Beatrice's father and the mysterious doctor brought to mind the evil Cabbarus of Westmark fame (never a bad thing), and I liked George's journey from frightened boy to capable ruler. There were a few very poignant scenes, particularly between George and his father, that struck me. I even liked Beatrice, despite how off putting and seemingly lacking in all emotion she was throughout the book. The problem was in the unrealized potential between these two characters who needed each other so badly. Yes, I realize Beatrice's secret made realization a bit difficult on the whole but, when it finally did come out, things wrapped up rather quickly and I couldn't quite buy into the abrupt shift. I felt like they needed more time to cement things between them. And, I will admit, the ramifications of the revelation proved a bit too bizarre even for me to stomach. On the whole, The Princess and the Hound was a complicated and intriguing tale which I felt need a little more refining to smooth out the bumps and cracks along the way.
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