Merrie Haskell’s middle-grade fantasy novel Princess Curse is an imaginative retelling of the fairy tales The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast.
In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep.
Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul.
Princess Curse combines magic, suspense, humor, and adventure into a story perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine.
Initially: I realized today at work that I wouldn't be coming home and reading this today because I finished it last night, and that made me sad. There is no surer sign of a 5-star book for me, so yeah, I friggin loved this.
I feel like I've been talking about this book non-stop for all of 2013. And really...I kind of have. Every now and then there are books that come along that you expect to like, and hope to love, and that is enough. But sometimes, you pick up a book, and you're pretty confident you're going to like it, and then something happens, some magical, alchemical thing, wherein the book is clearly meant to have permanent space in your brain. You can't really explain it - it might not be the best written book you've ever read, or the most universally praised; it might not even be something you'd feel the same about, were you to read it at a different point in your life. But for whatever reason, at this moment, it's right. It pushes all your buttons. Ticks your boxes. Fills your gaps. You and The Book, sitting in a tree, forever. And for whatever reason, The Princess Curse was one of those books for me. It's one I know I will reread, probably for a while to come. And because of that, and because I've been talking about it almost non-stop since reading it in January, I kinda don't even know where to begin.
There was something just so engaging and lively about the story, and about the heroine, Reveka, especially. She's exactly what I wanted in a female protagonist as a kid (and still want now) - she's smart and competent, and she has a passion, which always fleshes out a character nicely; she approaches her world intelligently and fearlessly, even when she's scared (and I know that sounds like a contradiction, but you know what I mean). She's not flawless, she's not a Mary Sue, but she is a great heroine to connect to, both age appropriate and smart/relatable for readers beyond that age. She's curious and willful and a little fierce. As a character, she's kinda perfect; I don't know what else I could even ask for.
And Reveka leads us into a really great, memorable world, a sort of Eastern European mdeieval setting that draws on real historical figures and cultural traditions and beliefs of the time to build a great sense of place. Added to this is Haskell's take on the magical underworld of the story, Thonos, which is based in known myth and fleshes the fairy tale - and Reveka's world - in a really enjoyable way. Though most of the story is spent above ground for Reveka, the pieces of Thonos that we do see are gorgeously evocative, incorporating the known and typical underworld aspects of the fairy tale, but expanding it, working in other traditional depictions of underworlds, and playing them off of each other to make something really intriguing. The two worlds play off of each other very well, and it's something I'd love to explore more (she says, crossing her fingers that a second book will come to be).
Also - and I don't want to give anything away here, but - there's an excellent bit of mash-up going on! I love a good mash-up, and Haskell begins to incorporate some Beauty and the Beast elements at the end that could really be explored in a second book (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease). Sometimes mash-ups can seem chaotic and piecemeal, but Haskell uses the elements of both stories judiciously, along with the pieces of the mythology, as mentioned, choosing the ones that work best together and kind of blending one into another, to make something that seems more effortless and real.
As is clear from this review, there is room to grow into second book - or dare I say series? - and though I'm really hoping that happens because I don't want to be done with Reveka and her world, the book is not necessarily open ended. Things are wrapped up nicely, and one can end this book feeling like it's complete, with the reader given an idea of what Reveka's future will hold. This is nice for the imagination to play with, but also nice because it leaves open the possibility for more of this fantastic world and these fantastic characters, and I know I'm not alone in saying I would truly LOVE to see how Reveka and Frumos interact when she's older.
So if it's not clear, I'm saying: Pick this one up. Read it, love it, share it around. It's definitely worth your time. And bonus factor: Botany*.
*No, but seriously, though? Am I the only one who gets a little giddy when botany plays a part, especially in a fairy tale? I love me some characters who garden, man...
August 2020 Loved it still and still want the sequel! Please? o_O
4.5 stars... that will turn into a five star rating, once I have the sequel in my hands...
That is not to say that this ends with a cliffhanger. No, the story in this book is mostly properly resolved, especially the part about "The twelve dancing Princesses" retelling. As for "Beauty and the Beast"? We only get about two thirds of it, and having loved this story _ and its characters _ of course I want something more.
There's not much I can say without spoiling the story, so I'll just say this: I loved the fact that the setting in which the plot takes place feels real. Very middle age, and as such the reality isn't sugared. This was a time of wars and famine.
The fact that Reveka_ despite being thirteen years old _ acts as someone much more mature than someone in our time would, because times were different. She goes about her chores without complaints or woes.
I loved the characters characterization: From Reveka, to her father _ not forgetting Dragos of which I want to know so much more _ it all felt realistic enough.
And last, I loved the writing! Maybe because even though this tries to be middle grade it has an undeniable darker tone, that wouldn't be misplaced in an adult story.
For me the only thing that needs improving is the cover, that is just too juvenile.
This is book is a retelling of three fairy tales and more all bound up into one!
The author had the idea to bring not just one, but three fairy tale concepts together into one book. Add to that the element of Greek mythology, and you get this book. I don't really know how to describe it but I'll try my very best.
The Twelve Dancing Princesses. This was the first fairy tale concept that was introduced in this book. We have 12 princessses who were cursed by a magical being that makes them dance all throughout the night. But that is not only the case in this book. The girls were willing to dance with the one who cursed them in order to avoid doing another task.
Beauty and the Beast. The prince in the book is a zmeu, a dragon which can change its look to be more human. But in the book, the dragon is unable to control his forms by his own choosing because he is also cursed.
Sleeping Beauty. This is loosely related but some people from the castle were cursed to have an endless sleep until the curse is lifted. Or so they thought.
Hades and Persophone. The prince is a ruler of the Underworld and finds a bride. In this book, he had to find a bride to save his dying land, not because he fell in love with her in first sight.
Athena. Briefly mentioned. More like a cameo.
The concept of the book is overwhelming because of all its elements but reading it was completely opposite. It's only 328-pages long so the author was not able to deliver the concept convincingly. The ending was rushed and left wide open, and there are a lot of unresolved issues like who cursed the prince, why did he became the ruler of the lands, why would marrying someone save his lands and more.
I find this book mildly entertaining but in my opinion, the author should've sticked to only one concept if she is unable to develop it further. So we are left with a book which is roughly jumping from one concept to another.
I've been lusting after The Princess Curse ever since it was nothing more than a tiny little blurb with no cover and not much information. And ever since that time, I've had two warring halves living inside me.
One side smugly crossed her arms, stuck her nose in the air, and declared that NOTHING would be as amazing as Jessica Day George's 12 Dancing Princesses retelling.
The other side was a starry-eyed mess praying to the book gods that The Princess Curse would become *THAT* book where I'd want to hug it forever and sleep with a copy under my pillow at night.
Gloriously, the latter actually came true! Ever since I finished reading I've had to fight myself not to pick it up and read it all over again (and again, and again. My review pile is glaring at me!) Now that isn't to say The Princess Curse is better than Princess of the Midnight Ball. That would be comparing apples to oranges.
Because the thing you need to know about The Princess Curse is this: You have never read a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling like this.
Oh how you astound me!
Merrie Haskell totally has an Author Brain (yes, with capital letters). Now, I kinda knew this already from all the time I had spent stalking her blog. It's sprinkled with all sorts of goodies from The Princess Curse. I knew from those little peeks that The Princess Curse was going to be a story like no other, but it wasn't until I actually read it that I realized how much was there.
In a lot of ways this is an "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of book. There's so much stuff in there. Historical bits, herbalism, adventure, magic, romance, growth, curses, shape shifters, war--you name it and it's there.
The thing is, it never feels like that. I was never bored with pages of information about the world (both the fictional Sylvania and the historical Romania around the time of Vlad the Impaler). I never felt antsy reading through dry details about herbalism.
That is because none of these things were told to me. Really, none were even shown, as authors are so frequently told to do. Merrie Haskell went beyond telling and showing, instead making me live her book. I never once felt like I was reading. I was living, breathing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing everything right alongside Reveka (I'll talk about her later!).
The best kind of fairy tale retelling
In addition to the 12 Dancing Princesses story, Merrie Haskell also wove in TWO more tales and they are almost as integral to the plot as the 12DP story (but I'm not telling you what they are!).
I never would have thought of combining these stories and if anyone had told me they were going to be combined in one book, I probably would have looked at it with some major skepticism, but that's why I DON'T have an Author Brain (like, at all). All I can say without spoiling things is that Merrie Haskell makes it work.
Obviously the original story is getting a shake up in Merrie's version, but, like all the best fairy tale retellings, The Princess Curse retains the heart and features of the original tale (or, in this case, tales).
I loved the tweaks made to the princesses, the reason there are 12, why they dance, what is under their castle, who saves them, the invisibility cloak, the king's promise, the fate of the failed princes, and the villain. All of these features remain faithful to the original while totally turning things on their head in the most original ways imaginable.
New book best friend!
Remember I said I'd mention Reveka? Oh gosh, how do I explain Reveka? She is so awesome. This is a MG book, so she's on the younger side, but that didn't stop me from relating to her. There were so many points where she would think something and I felt such a kindred spirit bond with her because *I* totally felt the same way! There's this part with spies that especially stands out for me.
Reveka is inquisitive, fiercely independent, she knows exactly what she wants and she will do whatever she needs to do to get it. She's stubborn, she's funny, she's adorably irreverent, but underneath it all she has a good heart.
Reveka would be in good company among Anne (with an E!--Reveka completely channels that spirit) from Anne of Green Gables, Vivian Vande Velde's Lylene or Alys or Mel from Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel (and that's high praise from me considering those are among my top favorite ladies from my top favorite books).
I can't say much at all about the other characters without giving things away. But, I will say that you will meet people who are of the "make my heart melt they're so kind and sweet" variety (think the old guardian types). You will also meet people who made me want to reach into the book and slap them silly. Some made me sigh with exasperation, while others left me laughing. Some shocked me with their hidden depths, and others touched me with their quiet romances.
But the best of all--the one with such depth who touched my heart, stoked my anger, made me swoon (this is MG? Yeah, but if you have an older mind...), and left me begging for more, well, I'm not saying another word about him (tease much? You betcha)
Richly drawn and lovingly rendered, The Princess Curse touched my heart, made me smirk, gave me a new book best friend, and has left me begging for more! I am astounded at the amount of originality and depth in this story. The Princess Curse is that MG book that totally silences those who would scoff at MG books as "dumbed down" stories.
My one complaint is that there is no guarantee yet for a sequel, and I want a sequel! The ending is open, but less in a way that it's a cliffhanger or the story is incomplete and more in the way that you know these characters will have a full life ahead of them. But I want to read more about that life!
What will convince publishers to print a sequel? The sales of The Princess Curse. Oh, hey, on a totally unrelated note, did you happen to notice that, at the time of this posting, The Princess Curse is available for purchase? I'm just saying.
(Ok, ok, I know, I'm totally not subtle. Can I blame my lack of finesse on my all-consuming love for The Princess Curse?)
THE ONLY COMPLAINT I HAVE ABOUT THIS BOOK IS WHY IS THERE NO SEQUEL???
It ends like there's gonna be a sequel and HOW DOES SHE BREAK THE CURSE I NEED TO KNOW.
sorry I literally just finished it and I can't coherent very well right now XD This was a great book and I rarely give 5 stars unless I truly loved and enjoyed a book. But you might want to save yourself from the anguish of needing a non-existent-sequel.
*crawls off into corner to coddle book and cry tears*
I LOVED this book. I picked it up expecting yet another slight and amusing riff on the theme of girl-with-21st-century-attitude-stars-in-retelling-of-classic-fairytale-set-in-unspecified-yet-still-annoyingly-historically-inaccurate-medieval-kingdom.
Instead, I was blown away by Merrie Haskell's impeccably realised and researched world - the 15th century principality of Sylvania, (a country so convincing I was quite shocked to discover in the Author's Notes that she made it up!)whose Price - lacking an heir and desperate for alliances to preserve his country's independence from it's rapacious neighbours - is prevented from marrying off his twelve daughters by a very inconvenient curse which not only causes them to wear their shoes to rags each night, but responds to any attempt to separate or remove the princesses from their tower bedroom with floods and earthquakes.
Enter apprentice herbalist and accomplished liar Reveka, a commoner recently transplanted to Castle Sylvian by her father, an ex-soldier. (Nice allusion to the Brothers' Grimm Twelve Dancing Princesses there.)Reveka's interest in the princesses' curse is at first solely motivated by the reward money, (which will buy her the chance to one day run her own herbary) but once she discovers the princesses' aren't the curse's only victims she becomes increasingly determined to break it, especially once she realises that the peace and stability of her new home rests on discovering the princesses' secret. However, there are no easy fixes here and freeing the pricesses from their nights of dancing results in anything but a happy-ever-after.
This book was excellent in so many ways, but the best thing for me was that Merrie Haskell has that great and rare gift of knowing her world so well that she DOESN'T FEEL THE NEED TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING. The characters know their own stories, customs and history, so we, the reader don't have to, and, while this book resolved the mystery of the princess's curse, Haskell has left many tantalising loose ends and unexplained mysteries, (amongst them the back-story of her gorgeously sympathetic Demon King) leaving me in desperate hope for a sequel. In the meantime, I'll have to resort to googling Romanian fairy tales.
A delightful and lighthearted read! My favorite line was when Reveka was talking to the old woman in the tower and the woman tells her how peaches will kill a pig dead if he eats to many of them and Reveka's like "I put that advice away in case I ever got a pig someday" I laughed so hard at that, don't know why really, just thought it was harlarious.
My only qualm about this book was it ended to soon/should of had a sequel where Dragos turns into his human form for good and Reveka and him live happily ever after. Not to give away spoilers or anything.
Anyway a great read full of wit, great characters and fast paced action.
“Fate is for people who are too lazy to do anything.”
If I desperately try to stay awake to finish a book, it's usually a sign that I'm really enjoying it. If I don't manage to finish it before sleep takes me, and I go as far as to finding excuses to read those final chapters instead of doing the work I ought to be doing, it's more than likely that I really am enjoying the book in question. The Princess Curse had me doing both - I loved it and I had to know how it ended! And then came the disappointment.
This book came so close to being perfect for me. The world was great - I appreciate when a fictional country is placed in our own world where the author has enough liberty to play with her fictional creation as well as draw things from historical events. If done well, it can give authenticity to the world created while still including fantastical elements - a world that is similar yet different from ours. The author doesn't only create this through the setting, but also by including the art of magic-free herbology and letting it co-exist with actual magic. Having these real and imaginative elements in harmony allows for a believable world that is easy to immerse into.
Reveka is also a nice main character - she's got her own dreams and desires and she's willing to do what it takes to achieve them. At least almost - she does also come to realise that sometimes she needs to sacrifice her own desires to help others she cares for. Although generally kind, she can be quite sassy and almost rude at times - but I mean this in the best way possible, some of her thoughts and comments are hilarious. I was also surprised to find how freely she narrates about bathroom needs and throwing up. I've rarely come across such details in a book, and when I did, it usually bothered me - it's kind of off-putting. But Reveka pulls it off with such sass, it's just hilarious.
I also love how the author blends two fairy tales together - The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Beauty and the Beast. The latter one alone is already reason enough to catch my attention, but in addition, the author also draws on other tales from mythology and religion - it may seem like a mix of too many things, but she combines them wonderfully.
The first half of the book is more devoted to The Twelve Dancing Princesses and is much more about the mystery of it all, while the second half borrows from The Beauty and the Beast. Now the second half is where the romance slowly starts to show. It was subtly hinted at in earlier parts of the book already and it remained rather subtle all the way through. I appreciated that - it showed a genuine growth of feelings.
What I didn't appreciate, was how the story in itself is conclusive, but still so much was left undone. Yes, the ending hints at what might be - but there are so many options. The ending just screams for a sequel - and if I understand things correctly, there won't be one. I still loved this book, but wow, I really wanted a bit more out of that ending. Ambiguous endings can be good, but in this case, I was vastly disappointed, in fact, I felt frustrated - how can it end there? But alas, there's nothing for it. I'll love the book as it is, but it will always end on a sad note that I can only guess at what would have happened next.
Reveka is a 13 year old girl who after being raised since she was very young in a convent has recently been reunited with her soldier father, who is the kings gardener to the Prince of Sylvania. Now they live at the castle and she is an herbalists apprentice.
When she is summoned to the Princess consort to explain why the 12 princesses,her stepdaughters all ended up smelling like cabbage after their bath,she confesses that she sprinkled some herbs in there hoping to break the princesses curse. Even if she thinks its a silly curse
And it was a silly curse, wasn’t it? Every morning, the princesses left their tower bedroom, exhausted, with their shoes in tatters..
...and every night the twelve princesses Maricara Nadia ,Tereza,Ruxandra,Rada Lacrimora,Viorica, and Otilia go to bed and in the morning their slippers are worn right through but they wont reveal where they have been or what they have been doing to ruin their shoes. To further complicate matters Sylvania is a small kingdom and surrounded by other more powerful neighbours and some of them have started believe that the curse the princesses are under is nothing more than a political ploy.
Especially as everyone who has tried to find out what the princesses were doing in their chambers has fallen into a deep sleep and the emissaries from the neighbouring kingdom who were sent to try and break the curse has vanished into thin air. The King has declared that anyone who can break the curse will be rewarded and Reveka badly wants the money so she can set up her own herbarium.
It starts out as way for her to get her what she wants but when she becomes involved with the people who are indirectly victims of the curse she realizes that much much more is at stake.
This is as must be apparent a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" yet none of them are the heroine of the book. Its Reveka,the 13 year old herbalists apprentice and she was great main character to follow. She had plenty of wits but was not entirely perfect,and she struggles with her newfound relationship with her father Konstantin.
They are developing something of a connection but not sure I liked how Revekas father Konstantin told her how he couldnt even remember her mothers face.
I was expecting this to be a bit childish but to my pleasant surprise it showed great depth not only when it came to characters but also when it came to the plot as things are far from black and white and... in a way I felt the princesses themselves were as much a threat as any beast or invading army! They are not the only ones affected by the curse and yet they remain so secretive and refuse to do the one thing that will free their sisters,wake the sleepers and keep Sylvania from being torn apart by war. Its also very interesting how the author has put the story in an actual historical time (even if Sylviana as a country is entirely made up) as opposed to most fairytales tend to take place in once-upon-a-time land.
Revekas father for example used to be a soldier for Vlad Tepes and one of the rulers who are just waiting for their chance to invade is Matthias Corvinus.
The book also touches on a sensitive subject,altough it doesnt explore it in detail. There is nothing explicit just mentioning it. Namely that of girls marrying very young,so I was very glad that the issue with marriage was brought up and one concern put to rest when Reveka is fretting about it and told by Dragos that he believes while many girls marry early there is no consummation until years later.. But Princess consort Daciana was also married when very young and I am not sure the Prince Vasile was so chivalrous or decent :/
This is the first time I have heard of the zmeu and even before he or it appears in the story it in the tapestry of the maiden about to be abducted by a fearsome zmeu that Reveka observes many times.
The bit where Reveka remarks on how the girls in the stories never get the hint and then she herself didnt catch on to the clues about Lord Dragos.Yeah that was a bit funny. In the stories, you always know who the zmeu is; the storytellers always say he’s charming and friendly and looks like an ordinary man, but they also drop hints so broad that you can’t help but think the girl is stupid for not knowing. It has the right fairytale quality to the writing there is even a handsome (but Reveka thinks he is simpleminded) cowherder by the name of Mihas who goes around with his mouth hanging open and who many people (to Revekas disgust) has a crush on her.
When the setting changed to the underworld I felt the story lost a bit of its pacing when it started involving less of the folklorical elements and instead crossed over to the greek pantheon mainly because I felt the Persephone story has been done so many times before and didnt feel as fresh and inventive as the rest of the book. But still towards the end of the book it picked up some of what it had before. The book is labeled as a middle grade book but I think its also a good read for adults and I get the feeling that this is one of those books that you can read when young but appreciate the darker and more complex bits when you re-read it as an adult. The story but left me wishing there was a sequel. In fact there must be a sequel because otherwise how will the author account for all the sequel baits in this book.
What’s with all the books with cliffhanger endings that don’t mention they’re the first in a series? This is the third or fourth book I’ve read in the last year that goes “oh, and, while we’re on the last page, just in case you thought everything was going to be resolved – no, here’s a bombshell!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as a reader, I want to know if I’m signing up for a book or a series. It’s like Gilligan’s Island, only the Skipper and Gilligan knew it wasn’t going to be a three-hour tour before they set out and didn’t tell anyone.
Other than the last paragraph TBC, I liked this book. The writing isn’t great and the beginning is slow, but the story is engaging. A twist (emphasis on twist) of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the story follows thirteen-year-old Reveka, a herbal apprentice, who decides to break the curse on the twelve princesses in order to claim the prize money, which she plans to use to buy her way into a nunnery where she can have her own herbery. Reveka grew on me as the story progressed and her unique personality emerged (she was entirely too generic girl power in the beginning). Reworked fairy tales are a guilty pleasure of mine, and this one is definitely one of the more creative. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining for what it is. Recommended.
I promised myself I'd never one-star a book again. Wanna know why? Because I'd never, ever read a book bad enough for that again!
Well. I was wrong.
The Princess Curse was a big fat liar. This middle grade book promised it was a retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses, one of my favorite stories! But the actual Twelve Dancing Princesses was over by the halfway mark, where it immediately morphed into a Hades and Persephone retelling.
Yes. You read that right.
Hades and Persephone. For 8-year-olds.
Not only did this book completely misrepresent itself in the blurb, NO reviewers seemed to notice that the tone shifted entirely, the setting was completely changed for the rest of the book, and EVERY plot thread introduced and set-up in the first half were left entirely in the lurch for NO REASON other than to create a love story between a thirteen-year-old girl and a man cursed as a zmeu (a mythological Romanian dragon who kidnaps young, pretty girls) who is stated in the book to be at leastfourteen years her senior.
You read that right.
There is no character development. The narrative promises set-up and made in the first half are forgotten and thrown away. No characters outside of the MC and the fucking old man love interest are important.
There are twelve princesses, some of whom presented to be snobs, others poor, others rude, others kind and helpful to the MC. They have plot threads presented in the first half that you think will become important (one of them is in love with someone they shouldn't be, one was born illegitimately and taken to the palace and wants to return home) but they mean NOTHING because once the MC breaks the magical dancing pavilion curse by agreeing to MARRY the zmeu man, she spends the rest of the book in the underworld, trying to fix his realm's problems and falling in love with him.
I guess I should start from the beginning. The MC (I forcibly forgot her name out of rage and spite) is thirteen and has been recently reunited with her father, the palace's head gardener, and come to work as an apprentice herbalist at the palace. Her mother died and she was raised in a convent while her father was away at war. All she wants to do is practice herbal healing and buy a position in a convent so she can do so. The princesses are cursed, they disappear at night and wear out their slippers, and everybody who's tried to figure out why has been put under an incurable sleep. All intrigue and la-dee-da, right?
The MC soon learns that the princesses are drugging people to sleep because they . . . don't want to be followed? Or caught, or something? It started that one of them found this magical place under their bedroom (or something--it's never really explained) and there the zmeu guy was. He wants to marry one of them because marrying a girl will bring prosperity back to his limbo-esque underworld land. Cool. Whatever. But the princesses refuse to offer themselves as sacrifice, so they make a deal that if they can dance every night for however many years, he won't take one of them? So yeah. There's something about how someone has to marry him willingly, so he's hoping they'll get tired and agree or like, fall in love with him or some shit.
We learn all of this over the course of the book, but the main premise is that the MC wants to buy her way into a convent with the money offered to those who figure out what the curse is and how to break it. We're led to believe that she'll do this, that she'll develop a relationship with her strict absentee father, that the kind princess will get a mini-arc, and that the cowherd boy who the MC is always making fun of and being mean to and calling stupid will get something of a role or at least show the MC it's shitty to be mean.
Yeah well forget all that crap! The literal middle of the book is MC girl going down to the enchanted dancing pavilion, seeing the princesses and the zmeu, and offering herself up to marry him. To like, protect her father who followed her down there, or some tripe . . .
From that point on MC is trapped in the underworld, daydreaming about kissing the monster zmeu guy, who surprise surprise, looks human in like sunlight or something. Or at random. I don't know and I don't care. Fuck him. The quote-unquote stupid cowherd boy has a crush on MC and offers himself as a servant to the zmeu guy so MC won't be alone and he can send messages back home to her family and help her escape. But instead of this perfectly acceptable romance that was clearly set-up in the beginning for development or AT LEAST a decent friendship, NOPE. MC ignores or doesn't care about his feelings and goes hunting for a man who's not human and at least thirty. (she's not obligated to have a love interest or romance arc or reciprocate, but if you're going for a romance subplot in middle grade, PLEASE CHOOSE THE BOY WHO IS LOYAL, NICE, AND HER FRIEND AND EQUAL IN INTELLECT AND AGE.)
MC's father ends up staging an attempt to rescue her and she eats pomegranate seeds that will keep her bound to the underworld. But she eats five . . . which means she can come back in five years? And marry him when she's a good ol' legal eighteen. It doesn't make sense to me but I was furiously skimming at this point. Her father ends up being in love with one of the legitimate princesses and because he purportedly found the curse he's allowed to marry her. MC girl hates this and treats the princess like garbage even when she's actively trying to protect her from the pedophile who kidnapped her. Because this had to be some kind of Lolita shit.
So the book ends like that. MC returns to the world above with the promise in her mind of marrying the zmeu guy in five years. And apparently he's like, unaware of this, even though his world is being repaired because she made the promise and ate the seeds.
There's little-to-no interaction with any of the other characters after the middle break. The tone is absolute rubbish, going from YA themes, descriptions, and romance to poop jokes and farting. To keep the kids interested, I guess. The first half and second half are completely separate books. The characters are irritating and stupid.
I thought I was safe from this. I thought I'd done my research!
Original Review 6/4/17:
It's like the first half and the second half weren't even from the same book? It went from 12 Dancing Princesses to Hades and Persephone (with a 13 year old girl and an old dragon man of indiscriminate age, but at LEAST 14 years older than her, and NO backstory at ALL) and it was gross and weird and I hated it. There was no point to any of the other characters. Mihas? No point. Otilia? Nuh-huh! Lacrimora? Nope, not seeing it! Didina? A flimsy motivation for Reveka, but otherwise . . . nada! There was no development between Reveka and ANY of the characters initially introduced to us (her father, Mihas, the princesses) because the second half of the book is in the fucking underworld and Reveka is a fucking child bride who falls in love with an ancient dragon kidnapper!!! What the fuck was this? The tone was fucking poop jokes one page to appease the 8-year-olds and then Stockholm Syndrome and pedophilia the next. The first half of the book was okay and I was really enjoying it? And then y'all pulled this shit.
Do yourself a favor and read Wildwood Dancing or Diane Zahler instead.
I picked this up expecting a quick, easy and light read. Instead, I got a surprisingly well thought out and interesting story that pulled together different fairy tales and did it very well.
Thirteen year old Reveka is a herbalist apprentice who has set herself the task of curing the silly curse on the twelve princesses. Every morning, the princesses wake up exhausted, shoes in tatters yet seeming not to have left their room. No one can figure out why this happens and though many have tried to figure it out, they have been rewarded by being put into a deep sleep that slowly kills them. Reveka is new to the town and because of this does not harbor the prerequisite fear and dread the situation requires. All she cares about is breaking the curse so she can get the huge reward being offered by the Prince to free his daughters from their fate.
But as Reveka begins to understand the nature of the princesses' ailment, she realizes that this is a much bigger problem than she had expected. Along the way, she discovers friendships, loyalty and the depths of sacrifice she never knew she was capable of. She begins to grow from a girl who is only interested in the reward because it will allow her to escape her current life, into one that that truly cares about the town and its inhabitants. When her friend gets poisoned and ends up in the deep sleep, Reveka furiously races to find an answer to the puzzle.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I did begin to notice a pacing problem after chapter 22. The story became slow moving and though somewhat interesting information was being passed on, I did not find it as compelling as the first half. Also the end of the book was not very satisfying. I wanted to see a clear picture of what would happen to this remarkable girl. There was an attempt at a resolution but one that would only be okay if there is another book to follow. In fact, I am really hoping that is the case cause I want to see what happens with Reveka.
I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone younger than fifteen because there are some themes here that seem a bit more mature than the ten and up recommendation that the back of the book suggests. For example, the prince having illegitimate daughters and the way he acquires these illegitimate daughters seems a tad mature for this age group.
I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know Reveka.
**Review copy received from Amazon.com's Vine Program.
I'm not sure what to think of this book. First, I am shocked that it is labeled as Juvenile Fiction. There are some very adult topics in it. One being the subject of heirs and consumating marriages. Um, I don't want my 9 year old reading about that.
The book starts with 13 yr old Reveka, she is a herbal apprentice at the castle of the 12 dancing princesses. Only two of those princesses are legitimate. The other are the king's daughter's from women he found around the city. (Nice huh?)
Ok, here is more, so Reveka breaks the spell, but in order to do this she has to agree to be Dragos (a demon dragon's) wife in Hell, yes it says Hell several times in refence to the place. So, then it turns into a lot like the Haydes & Persephone story. And she has to decide whether she is going to stay with him and save his underworld kingdom or leave and go back with her family and help all the people in the above world. Or both. ***********
So, I don't think this is suitable for younger kids, or even younger teens. I think if it was written for an older audience I would have enjoyed it more.
The Princess Curse is a sort of retelling of "The twelve dancing princesses", told from the point of view of Reveka, a young apprentice herbalist. I seem to be reading a lot of versions of this story lately, and this one has enough original elements to stand out. I always love stories where the main character has a particular area of expertise or a hobby they love that makes them special, and I'm always frustrated when that hobby is only mentioned in passing and doesn't play any important part in the story. In this case Reveka is an apprentice herbalist and she takes her job very seriously, she even dreams of having her own herbary someday, and her knowledge of plants plays an important part in the story. I loved the setting too, a fictional region of 15th century Romania, and the inclusion of creatures and legends specific to that region. From the reviews I'd read I expected a great book, and I wasn't disappointed, even if the ending left a bittersweet taste for me.
I was not expecting such a masterful weaving of two wonderful tales, The Princess Curse took me completely by surprise. A lovely conglomeration of historical fiction, Eastern European folklore, and fairy tales that we all know and love with a wonderful lead to boot. Loved this so much.
My brain is too wrapped up in my first animation final to write a proper comprehensive review, so here's some bullet points!
🌿This is the second novel I've read that takes a fantastical approach to Eastern European, specifically Romanian, history. (The other one, Wildwood Dancing, is also inspired by the Twelve Dancing Princesses, but more loosely.) Although I can't say I know much about Eastern European culture/history, as far as I know the author handled it respectively. It was fun to learn some new Romanian terms, especially ones that relate to mythology. 🌿 I was surprised that the main character wasn't one of the twelve princesses nor one of their love interests, but Reveka is a great character nonetheless, and hers was a great perspective to write this story from, maybe because she wasn't directly involved with their curse but chose to become invested in it for the good of her friends and her own motives. I also enjoyed her character arc since she matured through the novel and slowly embraced a more complex (under)world view. (:D) 🌿 The pacing was excellent. Despite the large amount of conversations, I never felt like the plot was dragging since practically every discussion was relevant. And the plot wasn't too fast to keep up with, instead moving forward at a steady pace. 🌿 I loved the herb lore. Reveka, is an herbalist's apprentice and has spent her entire life studying plants, and it shows. While some of it is fictitious (ferns don't actually have seeds), this is okay because it's a fantasy. And reading along with Reveka as she does different tasks and uses her knowledge to try to break the curse was pretty fun. The author did some great research. 🌿 The characters are all well-written. I do wish we could have spent a bit more time with a few characters to understand their motivations and backstory more thoroughly, overall, most of them were well-rounded and dynamic. 🌿 It's hard to explain this without spoiling, but some readers might be concerned about a half-underage romance. I was. But the novel very carefully avoids the issue by explaining no romance is involved (yet) and the age difference doesn't matter as much because of the historical and mythological setting.
TL;DR: This book doesn't quite overtake my favorite Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling (Princess at the Midnight Ball still lays claim to that title), but it's high on my list of best fairytale retellings in general. I checked it out from the library but would definitely own a copy to reread whenever I wanted.
This creative and original retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" is set in Sylvania, a fictional region of Romania, in the fifteenth century. Thirteen-year-old Reveka has recently arrived at Castle Sylvian, where she is an apprentice to the castle's herbalist. Because her mother died when she was a baby and her father was a soldier, Reveka grew up in a convent until her father retired from the army, and it was there that she was first trained in herbalism. Unlike most girls, Reveka hopes never to marry and would prefer to become the herbalist for a convent, but she is not wealthy enough to obtain such a position.
For several years now, the twelve princesses of Sylvania have been cursed. Their dancing shoes are worn out every morning, but no one knows where they go at night. Anyone who stays with them at night to try to find out is cursed with a sleep that no one has woken from. Their father, Prince Vasile, is desperate to break the curse so his daughters can leave the castle to marry, because he has no sons and needs a grandson to be his heir. So he has offered a reward - if a man solves the mystery, he can marry one of the princesses, and if a woman solves the mystery, she will receive a dowry. Reveka knows she could use that dowry to join a convent as an herbalist, so she decides to investigate, and discovers a far more complicated msytery than she ever expected, leaving her with difficult choices.
I love fairy tale retellings, and The Princess Curse is now among my favorites in the genre. It's a wonderful mix of fairy tale, mythology, and historical fantasy, and Reveka is a delightful and entertaining narrator. I also loved the unusual setting of Medieval Romania, which really came to life. The Princess Curse is an enchanting debut novel by Merrie Haskell, and I look forward to reading her future books - in particular, I'd love to read a sequel to this book, because while it has a satisfying conclusion, I'd definitely love to read more of Reveka's adventures.
The story is told from the point of view of Reveka, a thirteen year old girl. The Princess Curse is a really interesting mix between the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and the myth of Hades and Pershephone. With this story, though, you get an outsider's view of the Dancing Princesses. It's suppose to be somewhat of a mystery through the first half of the book, but if you know the story at all, you'll know what is going on.
The humor in the book seemed to be targeted for a young boy at times. There's constant talk of people "farting"(I hate that word, by the way. I didn't even want to put it in the review!). ;) Also, with words like "poop" and telling that a character was scratching his backside, I think the book will most likely be enjoyed by a younger audience. That said, there are some aspects of the book that are probably better understood by an older audience. While Reveka is mature for her age in many ways, you can definitely see her immaturity shine through quite often. I very much enjoyed the book despite all this! Especially when I got halfway through, I just kept turning the pages to see what would happen!
There's really not a lot of romance in this book. A bit, but not much. Reveka is actually trying to earn a dowry so she can become an herbalist in a convent. Her mind is not on romance.
I don't know if the ending is just one of those that is suppose to leave you hanging a bit, or if there will be a sequel. I really hope that there will be a sequel!! I will be snatching it up quite quickly!
If you like fairy tales and retellings, I definitely recommend you give this one a try!
Was it clean?
Very much. There's was no profanity at all, very little romance, no violence that I recall. Overall, I think it's a great book for all ages, and I'm so grateful that another author has decided to provide the world with another great, clean read. :)
I've only just started this book, but I am absolutely loving it.
I have a few pet peeves about fantasy books set in a medieval world. Authors often puts modern attitudes about women's roles (and men's roles) in the mouths of protagonists who could have no concept of such things given the society in which they were raised. Also, novels are often set in a generically medieval frame, where clothing, technology, and politics that existed hundreds of years apart in the real world are presented as if they could have existed at the same time.
(Mild spoiler warning from first 30 pages of the book) There are other kinds of tidbits about medieval culture woven in to the story, and yet the writing maintains the energy and flow I expect from a good middle grade book.
I can't believe an MG book has just made my history-nerd heart flutter, and I can't wait to read the rest.
Update after finishing the book: Yep, still loved it. Highly recommended.
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses with a few other tales sprinkled in. Reveka a herbalist's apprentice is determined to solve the silly curse of the castle that makes the princesses ruin their dancing slippers nightly. Revka wants the prize money from solving the mystery so that she can buy herself a place in a convent so she can become a herbalist. Revka soon finds that the curse is not as silly as she once thought and is swept into a world she never imagined.
I have read several retellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and I've yet to tire of the story. Haskell takes the bare bones of the story and merges it with the Persephone story and a hint of Beauty and the Beast and gives us a strong female heroine who desires to free herself from societal expectations. I loved the story and finished it quickly and feel that it will be enjoyed by fairytale fans of all ages.
Appropriateness: There is no adult content in this book although there are some talk as to how royal marriages worked with very young brides and why the girls did not get pregnant until they were older. Nothing that would bother me as a parent even for a young child I would recommend this book to a middle grade audience 11-15 (although it is interesting enough for older readers who are fairy tale fans).
The cover, imo, is a bit unfortunate, as it implies something lighter and cuter than what is between the covers. Yes, the mc is thirteen. And, yes, there's not much of the romance one expects in YA. But this is a better fit for readers at least 11 years old, not for the 8 year-old girls likely to be attracted to the cover.
Anyway, the first half or so seemed plodding to me. And there was some political intrigue (though fortunately I didn't have to understand it clearly). I almost put it down, but I did want to learn where the author was taking all these ideas. And then things started happening, and actions were having consequences, and secrets were being exposed, and it got *very* engaging. Unfortunately, many of the exposed secrets weren't explained, so I hope the implied sequel has been published...
I really liked all the herb lore, like 'invisible' fern seeds. I liked how the author included real history, like Romanian culture, and Hildegard of Bingen, and the hennin headdress, along with the magic and the made-up little kingdom of Sylvania (adjacent Transylvania, you see). And I appreciate the author's note to help us sort out the invented from the documented....
Rating this is a little difficult for me. I'm rounding up to four stars because the author has a terrific imagination and created a world I really want to spend more time in.
To tell you the truth I loved it. It was really amaizing, great plot. It obsorbed me till the end. But I wasnt too fond of the way it ended... Dont get me wrong, it was a good way to end it, I mean normally these kind of books end with "... and they lived happily ever after". or something similar. But I thought it ended too abruptly, many things that were introduced in the book either, just dissapered without explanation or do not finish their story. For example: After Reveka found out that King Dragos or Frumos was not originally from the underworld but became that from a hasty bargain she wanted to find out his story and he kept mentioning that he would tell her but never did. And it sounds as though it is an important part as thats how we would know how he got there in the first place, also another thing is Dragos said that Frumos wasnt his real name but Revekas father seems to know him and called his "Prince Frumos"... These and other like this are left unsolved in the story, which to me kind of ruined the story and gave me an unsatisfied feeling about it. But other than these things the plot was really great. I loved the fact that it was a cross between The Twelve Dancing Princess and Beauty and the Beast, yet so tottaly original.
I really enjoyed this. It's written in language that's evocative and layered, and not least among the things I appreciated about it is that there was no villain. Of course, villains are beautifully conveyed in some of my favourite novels, but I do get tired of villains sometimes and it's a pleasure to read a book where the central conflict doesn't depend on one. Here the conflict centres on the choices that its narrator, Reveka, has to make.
I also like the way the ending doesn't tie everything up too tidily. However, that does bring me to my one small quibble: either the ending was just too abrupt (I wanted to know so much more!) or else it's a set-up for a sequel. Nothing wrong in that in itself, but I think that the novel could have continued a few chapters longer and been resolved and stood beautifully on its own. Still, if there is a sequel, I can't wait to read more about Reveka and the mysteries left unsolved. (Of course, if the story does continue in a further book, there may well be a villain....)
Merrie and I have known each other for a while, and I LOVE her short stories, so when she sold her MG novel The Princess Curse, I was thrilled for her - and also incredibly impatient to read it!
Luckily, I enjoyed it every bit as much as I'd hoped. It's a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" with a strong, smart (non-princess) heroine who has big (but totally plausible and intelligent) dreams and is willing to do whatever she has to to achieve them. I love girls like that, in fiction and in real life!
It's got strong friendships and complicated family relationships. And - just to make it even more exactly my kind of thing - it's set in a meticulously researched and well-grounded historical Eastern European setting.
In other words, I loved it, and I strongly recommend it!
Hmm this was a decent story but the ending wasn’t right. It feels like it’s a setup for a sequel but I’m guessing that will never come. So with the ending as is it feels unfinished. This could’ve easily worked as a standalone with a proper ending if some of the beginning was edited down to add more room for a proper complete ending.