on March 6, 2018 :
The 'Princess Wars' series is special. I'm an avid reader of fiction but I'm giving this one my personal award for best story I've read in 2017.
I found it to be a great pick-me-up, uplifting, read. An immersive princess fairytale for grown-ups.
Suited for anyone (teen+) who loves strong female heroines, in first person view. Even if this is not your usual genre otherwise, you might want to give this one a try.
With castles, swords and horse carriages, the style is perhaps parts of retro and medieval, with a touch of magic/sorcery, but selective and well-fit within this world.
Later books are slightly flirting with steampunk on occasion and contain some unconventional time-traveling.
None of it is dominant or over-the-top, which makes the whole mix a spicy and unique kind of "alternate history"/"history-punk" in a fictional world.
You probably won't find such a mix elsewhere, yet the story makes it work and manages to be funny at times without overtly trying (thanks to the heroine's character).
There is always the n'th vampire and werewolf clone, the millionth' space opera, yet another apocalypse zombie story, or elves and wizards and dragons tale to read next.
But this is a unique, one-of-a-kind, universe, and if you blink now you'll have missed it.
I found it refreshingly different to the mainstream, without being entirely out of the box. Quite a feat, considering most of the categories aren't my usual fare: I'm neither particular to 'historical', nor 'steampunk', definitely not 'time travel' of the usual kind.
~~ In-depth review ~~
This is a rare story where I've had no nitpicks about either storyline or writing style.
Unusual, as I more often find stories by male writers lacking in some way; either characters lacking emotional depth, or with a predictable storyline - doing problemsolving.
The storytelling has a unique style itself:
It's doesn't employ much of the usual fear and angst that authors usually require as a tool to build suspense and keep the reader on edge.
None of that "every chapter needs to hit harder than the last" paradigm; completely without those fear- or rage-inducing, blood-boiling, health-threatening moments.
Neither does the plot require the oh-so-common black&white mindset of evil enemies. Here, villains are also persons, enemies are reasoned with, compromises made.
The series isn't free of violence, fights and deaths; but is not a story where war, killing and dying is an essential part of the theme, uncountable dead bodies a normal scene.
It's a light read. I'm not quite sure if you would call it "clean and wholesome". It's maybe not a children's tale; but except for parts openly mentioning sex, harems and brothels (neither derogatory nor abusively slanted), perhaps not much worse than "Hänsel+Gretel" (remember: child abandonment, -kidnapping, -abuse and implied cannibalism).
It's quite unlike, but instead of being boring that way, it's hard to stop hiding from evil real-life in this unreal world.
The first few chapters I couldn't help but facepalm every time the heroine -on the run and hiding- easily reveals her identity when challenged, and generally being naive and trusting; of course expecting her to get stabbed in the back for it. (You know they *should* know better, it just reeks of the author springing a trap later!)
At some point though you learn to trust this (super-)heroine to be able to handle things -'cause, she's got magical help, yay- and just enjoy the awesome ride.
This is a heroine who doesn't just roll with the punches, she owns them and makes them hers; usually not punching back (which is just confusing at first).
She doesn't do fear and anxiety, she doesn't do deceit, her middle-name is 'aplomb'. The perfect fairytale princess.
(And you'll be wishing you could be open, fearless, self-assured and strong like her. Oh, and having her neat magic abilities. ;)
You couldn't possibly have a stronger female lead, without it becoming ridiculous (read: super-hero); however I found the last book started toeing the line there at the end, when infallible becomes the norm.
Then there is that unique way the heroine meets her challenges. Often you don't see those coming. Then her reaction is just as unexpected, at times dragging you along screaming and fuming about her decisions.
And just when the plot seems to be mapped out and you see the next steps, you're being tripped, life throws her for a loop and the whole Destiny changes. Again.
Entirely amazing with a lot of fun.
Finally, as mentioned, there were none of my usual nitpicks in this writing:
There is never any 'mind-split' between reader and (1st person) character - you *are* the character, you know what she knows. Very immersive.
This is unlike other stories where the character starts keeping secrets from the reader and you see sentences such as "Then I told them my plan for our later attack." (Leaving you to wonder; well, what *is* the plan?!).
More importantly you don't get switched between (1st person!) character viewpoints in this story, as if you were a body-snatcher; this creepy practice is absent here.
Further, it's light and fun reading, sometimes funny without overdoing it (in a deadpan, dry humor way: Oh no, I've been drugged. Not. Again!)
And lastly I found it very well written and edited.
Five stars for story-building, and another five stars for writing style.
(review of free book)