Review - The Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Forest of the Deer God by Joe Hisaishi [Princess Mononoke soundtrack].

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

The Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Published: Janurary 20, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 304
Current Amazon Rank: #88,502

Author's Website: Here
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

Because he had once been human, the King Under Stone sometimes found himself plagued by human emotions.

My Take:

This story took me a bit by surprise. I knew of the story of the 12 Dancing Princesses since I was young (and often balked when my friends had never heard the story before). Since then it has become quite popularized in many versions, such as Entwined by Heather Dixon, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler, and several other renditions. Each has a special place in my heart because of their unique take on this fun fairy tale, but this one struck a few of my favorite spots.

One thing it did - it touched on politics in a real way. A pet peeve of mine in fantasy is that the "kingdom" acts in isolation. Now, this doesn't necessarily have to be an issue, except when the main characters are meant to deal with this every day, aka princesses and royalty. That was not the case here. It wasn't even a politic story, but you could feel outside pressures, and it gave it an extra level of authenticity. In fact, she touched on many difficult subjects in a smooth and beautiful manner and I really enjoyed that aspect.

The characters were also great. The problem with having 12 princesses is that the cast can easily get a bit muddled. And while I cannot say she gave distinct personalities to all of the sisters, she did an excellent job and I can name most of the cast, including side characters, back to you. I wish more of the sisters (namely Poppy and Lily) had gotten more of the limelight, but I suppose that is just a further testament of how in so little space, she managed to make them come alive. The one exception, however, was one particularly religious sister that felt so wooden and two-dimensional that it bothered me every time she came on screen. Her character really could have been explored in much greater and more realistic depth. But let me tell you - I LOVED that Galen, our resident soldier, hero, gardener, and partial narrator knitted. Yes, I kid you not. He knits, and it is awesome. It was so unique and gave him such a wonderful flair, and it was not tacked on but was completely believable and a real part of the story. I loved it (and she has knitting patterns in the back of the book. How much cooler can you get?!) And for sticking so close to the fairy tale, she had a very believable and creepy villain indeed.

I would definitely recommend this one, especially if you are looking for a fun, clean, and plain well-written fairy tale retelling.

The Final Word: Nice pacing, good characters and unique elements all add up to one fine close retelling of the now-popular fairy tale. Clean, exciting, fun.


Theresa Milstein said...

I hadn't heard of this one. I'm glad it has some politics in it because kingdoms in isolation have always bugged me too.

Deborah Julene said...

I love this book! It's absolutely amazing! I'm glad you liked it! Jessica Day George is one of the best authors I've read anywhere, and it always shocks me when no one has heard of her.
Here's my review of the book!

Vanessa said...

I love this book.

Great review! I like your point about the political realism. I hadn't thought of that before, but you're absolutely right.

Meg said...

Thanks for the review! This is one I've been needing to read. The first book was very cute, and I enjoyed the "Dragon Slippers" series as well!

Dree said...

I loved this book too. You said you wanted to read more about Poppy, and Jessica Day George wrote a sequel where Poppy is the main character - Princess of Glass. Just wanted to make sure you knew! :)