A girl is transformed, through instruction in life at court, determination, and magic, from sullen, pudgy, graceless Ben into Crown Princess Benevolen...more A girl is transformed, through instruction in life at court, determination, and magic, from sullen, pudgy, graceless Ben into Crown Princess Benevolence, a fit ruler of the kingdom of Montagne as it faces war with neighboring Drachensbett. -Goodreads.com
There are a lot of things about Princess Ben that make it stand out from your usual fantasy/fairy-tale-esque novel. For one thing, no single character is defined as 'good' or 'bad'. All the characters, including Ben, have weak and strong aspects to their personalities. Ben's aunt, who you presume to be an evil stepmother type character is discovered to have some loving characteristics. Our main protagonist herself has her faults as well being immature and stubborn.
Another thing: the book is written in an old-fashioned, first person style. Whilst some may find this aggravating, it was extremely appealing to me because the sentences were beautifully structured and it related to the medieval setting of the fantasy world. It also emphasised Ben's position in court, making her character more believable.
The third thing: the magical element. In a lot of books, the character who possesses magical abilities seems to have a strong grasp of them straightaway, performing such powerful spells that shock her mentors/family/etc. This is not the case in Princess Ben. Ben has to work hard to perform even the simplest of spells.
However, the book does have its faults. I didn't feel the romance was fully developed as it should have been. While Florian was an amusing character, he didn't have much depth. He is initially extremely rude to Ben and this continues for most of the book until one scene where suddenly he becomes a sensitive romantic as he confesses some of his 'innermost secrets.' This change in personality is not believable. Then a few pages later, he is back to his usual self and threatening to send Ben-as-a-boy to prison for an extremely petty thing. Furthermore, I did love how the aunt was not, well, what we initally though of her, I didn't understand how Ben could so easily forgive someone who locked her up and denied her food.
A fun read with an extremely likeable character.