I took some time last night to read the The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. This book has been on my TBR list for some quite time now. I decided I wanted a lighthearted quick read and I figured what better book?
Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne of Phantasmorania is given the unexpected gift of "ordinariness" by her fairy godmother, Crustacea. The young princess grows into a gawky youth with an upturned nose, a smattering of freckles, and a mop of uninspiring mouse brown hair - quite different than her six graceful, golden haired sisters.
Amy (as she comes to be called) is, however, cheerful, brave, witty and charming and soon realizes she can have much more fun than her prim and proper sisters are allowed. Amy spends her days exploring the forest of Faraway while her parents puzzle over what is to become of her.
Prince after prince come to court Amy, only to unceremoniously back out when they see her very ordinary features. Amy's parents finally conspire to hire a dragon to lay waste to the countryside. Any prince who can slay the dragon will earn Amy's hand in marriage, at which point he'll be in too deep to refuse her. Amy learns of this plan and, quite put off by the whole affair, decides to run away to live in the forest of Faraway.
Amy lives quite happily in the forest but eventually realizes her dress is in tatters. She meets Crustacea who tells her that ordinary people get jobs when they find themselves wanting for something. Amy sets off towards the nearest town in search of work and becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid in the palace. It is here that she meets the charming Peregrine, a man of all work, who turns out to be just as ordinary as she is.
This was an adorable little book. It was a pleasantly quick read and had the feel of a traditional fairytale. The story moves along at a nice pace and doesn't dawdle on unnecessary details.
The illustrations, done by the author, are wonderful! They add so much to the story and are just so sweet and magical.
The message of this story is, of course, that looks are not everything. A princess's best assets needn't be her blue eyes or her golden hair. There are princes out there waiting for even the most ordinary of princesses.
I've seen some reviews argue that Amy is too perfect, too good, too clever, too charming. I suppose she is but insisting on making a fuss over this only serves to diminish the overall message here... Are these not traits to be glorified? What's wrong with being witty or brave?
Yes, perhaps Amy would have been more realistic if she were jaded with envy and lacked courtly grace but let's be reasonable. This is a pleasant story about a kindhearted princess who must find her own happiness in a world that primarily values beauty. This is not a story of an embittered princess who must come to terms with her shortcomings.
Characters: Simple but relatable.
Resolutions: Satisfying if predictable.
Plot: An interesting twist on traditional fairytale princesses.
Writing Quality: Very good, an easy read.
Lasting Impact: Strong.
Rating: ★★★★✰ 4/5