THE PRINCESS GAMES
by Danai Kadzere
Lands Atlantic Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy
For ages 8+
King Winkle and Queen Periwinkle have a problem. They need a princess, and they need her fast. With the upcoming peace-keeping marriage between Prince Linus of Branninia and the princess of the fair Kingdom of Hoggenbottom, it's a bit risky to admit they don't have a princess.
Instead, they decide to host The Princess Games. Soon enough, the fairest maidens of the land are gathered in front of the castle, fairy-godmothers in tow! With a goofy king, an obsessive compulsive advisor, and a fairy godmother whose spells do whatever they want, these games are about to get interesting.
Even if Emma and her clumsy Fairy Louise can manage to do well in the competition, she'll have to get past the expert spells of Fairy Faye and the beauty of Laralyn, who is intent on pleasing her ambitious mother at any cost.
The moment I saw this cover, and read the title and blurb, I knew this was going to be an enjoyable read. But of course, I have a soft spot of cute princess tales anyway.
The heroine, Emma, is a hard working, down-to-earth girl, who knows what surviving in the 'real' world means. She's the oldest of a number of younger sisters and struggles with her father to keep them all fed. The fact that her father only wants her to enter the games so she can have free food fit wonderfully well into the picture. She's easy to sympathize with and offers the perfect contrast for an otherwise proper environment. I loved to root for her.
The other characters seem, at first, to be a bit cliche, but as their personalities unfold, they're as much fun as Emma herself. I especially enjoyed the fairy godmothers and how different even their personalities could be. It was easy to like or hate each character, letting the story come to life.
The writing is perfect for kids 8 to 10. It's a quick read not only because of the length of the book, but the vocabulary and descriptions are kept light making the scenes pass by smoothly. There's just the right amount of description to make the world vivid by still allowing plenty of room for the reader's own imagination. Kids will have no trouble diving right in.
The plot itself is pretty whimsical. Although there are a few unexpected twists and turns (especially toward the end), in general, the story maintains a pretty straight course. There was a nice sprinkle of humor and enough adventure to keep me reading it from beginning to end.
Summed up, this is a fairly simple story which is perfect for the younger end of the middle grade spectrum. Especially girls will enjoy the princesses and fairy godmothers, and with the down-to-earth heroine thrown in, they have the perfect girl to cheer for. It's a fun read that I'd especially recommend for more reluctant readers.
And here she is. . .