Serena’s Review: “The Princess Will Save You”

43603825._sy475_Book: “The Princess Will Save You” by Sarah Henning

Publishing Info: Tor Teen, July 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!

Book Description: When her warrior father, King Sendoa, mysteriously dies, Princess Amarande of Ardenia is given what would hardly be considered a choice: Marry a stranger at sixteen or lose control of her family’s crown.

But Amarande was raised to be a warrior—not a sacrifice.

In an attempt to force her choice, a neighboring kingdom kidnaps her true love, stable boy Luca. With her kingdom on the brink of civil war and no one to trust, she’ll need all her skill to save him, her future, and her kingdom.

Review: I’ll be honest, I first requested this book based purely on how much I love this cover. Even now, looking at it above, I’m swayed to feel more positive about this book just by the lovely depiction of its main characters on the cover. But, when I dug deeper, I realized that it is also being promoted as a gender-swapped retelling of “The Princess Bride,” so, of course, I was even more excited to check it out! While I did enjoy it overall, it sadly didn’t quite live up to the promise of the gorgeous cover or the intrigue of the unique concept.

After the sudden and unexpected death of her father, the king, Princess Amarande quickly discovers how few options she has. Seemingly, no one else is concerned about potential assassination, and instead, her entire council is moving full steam ahead to marry her off to the most politically advantageous match they can find, regardless of Amarande’s own wishes. When her best friend, Luca, is kidnapped by one such potential match in an attempt to force her hand, Amarande takes matters into her own hands. Her quest is simple: save her true love, save her kingdom.

This is a tough one for me to rate and review. On one hand, it was enjoyable enough, and I was able to blaze through it in only a few days. The writing was solid. The characters were interesting. And the world-building did enough to paint a picture that I felt grouned. And yet…it was lacking something.

For one thing, I don’t think it did this book any favors to have it marketed as a gender-swapped “Princess Bride.” Sure, I can see how it follows similar plot points and winks and nods at some of the key phrases used in that book. But, on one hand, if I had not had that put in my head and thus wasn’t looking for these elements specifically, I’m not sure I would have made these connections. And, conversely, when I was looking and did spot them, they often detracted more from the story than they added. For one thing, the first half of the story doesn’t feel like a re-telling at all, whereas the last half really goes all in. It’s an uncomfortable balance.

Beyond that, I think I was also set up to expect more of a humorous fantasy story. Obviously, “The Prinicess Bride” is comedy through and through. Here, not so much. Not only is it clearly not going for the same parody tone that its inspiration had, it also just seemed to lack much humor at all? I think this, truly, is where my main contention point came for the story. It checks all the marks for a good fantasy adventure, but there is something decidedly dry in the tone and its telling. It didn’t have to be back-to-back laughs, but as I was reading through, I realized more and more that there simply were no laughs whatsoever. So, while the characters, romance, and adventure were compelling enough, they also felt strangely two dimensional and flat. It was too bad.

It looks like a sequel is planned, so I’ll most likely check it out. There were some interesting developments towards the end of the story. And perhaps the second will be served better by being more thoroughly detached from the “Princess Bride” read-alike label. Just add some humor to the story, and it could be great!

Rating 7: Sadly a bit flat in its telling, but a fast enough fantasy adventure.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Princess Will Save You” is on these Goodreads lists: “Damsels in Shining Armor & Dudes in Distress” and “Royalty.”

Find “The Princess Will Save You” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Wayward Witch”

53038638._sx318_sy475_Book: “Wayward Witch” by Zoraida Córdova

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Rose Mortiz has always been a fixer, but lately she’s been feeling lost. She has brand-new powers she doesn’t understand, and her family is still trying to figure out how to function in the wake of her amnesiac father’s return home. Then, on the night of her Deathday party, Rose discovers her father’s memory loss has been a lie.
As she rushes to his side, the two are ambushed and pulled through a portal to the land of Adas, a fairy realm hidden in the Caribbean Sea. There, Rose is forced to work with a group of others to save Adas. Soon, she begins to discover the scope of her powers, the troubling truth about her father’s past, and the sacrifices he made to save her sisters.
But if Rose wants to return home so she can repair her broken family, she must figure out how to heal Adas first.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

It’s been a four year journey with the Mortiz Sisters in the “Brooklyn Brujas” Trilogy by Zoraida Córdova, and what a genre bending, empowering, and unique (to me) journey it’s been. Given that books one (“Labyrinth Lost”) and two (“Bruja Born”) followed the oldest and middle sisters, Alex and Lula, I knew that “Wayward Witch”, the last in the trilogy, was destined to be Rose’s story. Rose has always been the sister that has intrigued me the most, as she has always been quiet, reserved, and a little bit mysterious because of it. I was eager to get into her head for the last story, hoping that Córdova would give her a lot to do and work with, and perhaps explore a new genre like she did with Lula. The fulfillment of those hopes was a mixed bag.

Since I want to focus on the positives, I will get my negatives out of the way, particularly as they are no fault of the book. We have gone back to a fantasy focused story in “Wayward Witch”. I had been hoping that after the genre shift in “Bruja Born” we might be experimenting with a whole other genre again, but that was not the case. As much as I can appreciate the care and detail that Córdova put into the world of Adas, and as much as it definitely was unique and steeped in cultural influence that you don’t see as much in fantasy, it’s still a world building fantasy story. And outside of very specific examples that I love, it’s a genre that doesn’t really click with me. Along with that, I had hoped to see more sister interaction like we had in “Bruja Born”, but given that Rose was on her own for a majority of the story, that didn’t happen.

But, that said, I am so happy that we finally got to Rose’s story, and that she got to have this kind of adventure that is so different from the ones that her sisters had. Rose has been dealing with magical changes in her life, as her power has shifted to being a person who can take on the powers of those around her. You enter that in with the dramatic changes in her family life (her father returning from his long absence, her family having to move to Queens after their home was destroyed, her Deathday celebration), and she is feeling stressed and unheard. Not to mention her relationship with her father is a bit strained, as she has few memories of him before he disappeared. I liked that his reappearance in her life specifically is a bit messier and more complicated. But her journey to Adas with her father allows her to see her powers in a new way, as to the fae there she is a savior and a warrior who is there to stop The Rot that is destroying their world. Seeing her function in this totally different realm could have been similar to Alex’s journey in “Labyrinth Lost”, but Rose is so different from Alex that it feels pretty new and fresh. Her magical powers are also neat to see in focus, as the upsides, and the downsides, of being a ‘magic hacker’ as she likes to refer to it are shown in different ways. Be they amusing, or potentially dangerous. And even though the fantasy themes didn’t really connect with me, I did like the characters that Córdova created in Adas, especially Princess Iris. Iris has a lot to prove to both her father, the King, and to herself as well. It was refreshing to see usual fantasy gender norms being bent between her and her twin brother Arco. While Iris is the more ferocious and determine warrior type, Arco is a bit more sensitive and reserved, and Rose’s interactions with both of them helped round out her character, and perhaps made up for the fact we didn’t see her interacting with Alex and Lula in similar ways.

So while the fantasy elements as a whole weren’t as interesting as the horror elements from the previous books, I thought that “Wayward Witch” gave Rose the attention that she deserved, and wrapped up the series in a mostly satisfying way. I’m so happy that Zoraida Córdova got to tell her story about these bruja sisters, and that YA audiences have been given a great example of how witches don’t have to be white.

Rating 7: A return to otherworldly fantasy means that this conclusion didn’t connect as much as the previous book, but “Wayward Witch” gives Rosie Mortiz a strong tale that shows off her abilities, and wraps up a fun and dreamy fantasy series.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Wayward Witch” is included on the Goodreads lists “Latina Leads in YA and Middle Grade Fiction”, and “2020 YA Books with LGBT Themes”.

Find “Wayward Witch” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Previously Reviewed: