Review and Virtual Book Tour: Princess Interrupted

 A princess, cook, master horsewoman, and assassin. I hope this blue-eyed boy is worthy of her” (page 295).

I have finally found a book I will let my daughter read. Granted, I don’t exactly have a daughter, but if I did, this would be one of the books we'd read together. The story clips along at a bustling pace, it provides ample space for its characters’ physical and emotional development, and it has some kick-butt gender politics. Yep, nonexistent daughter – I am definitely adding this delightful novel to our imaginary reading repertoire.

Princess Interrupted encompasses several months, perhaps a year, of Princess Arabelle’s life as she shoulders the responsibilities of soldier, herbalist, and protector. As she trains herself into a stronger incarnation, both emotionally and physically, her compassion lands her the friendship of a gentle, shape-shifting dwarf and leads her closer to freeing their country from the tyranny of a (rather hypocritically anti-magic) dark wizard and to locating the literal blue-eyed boy of her dreams. Yeah, our caravan princess has a lot on her gilded plate.

The novel switches vantage points among three characters: Arabelle, the princess and main character; Grisham, the pubescent, orphaned dwarf boy; and Kirag, the evil wizard’s right hand baddie. These are very different persons: Arabelle is a brash, brave, and fiercely protective human princess; Grisham is a gentle and sad young man with a greater affinity for animals than people; and Kirag is a half-ogre whose hobbies include strolls along the mountainside, torturing, and slaying. The author does an admirable job nestling inside their heads and making these characters come alive in their multifaceted and very different ways.

I was surprised and interested to note the novel is detailed in the art of assassination and war, which adds a grittiness to its otherwise intense sweetness. Arabelle trains to become a warrior, and we learn right along with her the tricks to most efficiently kill an opponent. It’s disturbingly realistic, but surprisingly, I found I didn’t mind. We see Arabelle struggle with the reality of having killed a person; death isn’t a mere plot device but a stark reality for our shero. I can appreciate the seriousness of violence in this book.  

From my perspective, the best part of the novel is its gender politics. In the beginning of the novel, Princess Arabelle is afflicted with a curse that forces her to work out, practice with weapons, and in general train to become a soldier. A good soldier. I love how fiercely she fights to protect her loved ones, how her months of training sculpt her body into a tightly controlled fighting machine. Yet, she simultaneously trains herself in the art of herbs and potions and in doing so becomes a skilled cook. I really enjoyed that, since all-too-many contemporary princess-empowerment stories feature young women who find themselves balking at traditional femininity. Femininity is weak and stupid, these stories hint. Why can’t princesses be powerful warriors instead? In Princess Interrupted, there is no instead. Arabelle is a warrior, but at no time do I feel she devalues traditional femininity and womankind. She doesn’t want to escape womanhood; she wants to expand it to include all of her. She is a warrior, an assassin, a spy, an herbalist, a cook, and a teenager who dreams of finding true love. And throughout all this, she remains a compassionate and loving friend and daughter.

Grisham is another beloved character. You want a gentle, loving, and compassionate character who finds solace with non-human mammals? (My answer is a resounding “Yes!”) You might not think this sounds like a description of a male protagonist,  let alone a dwarven one, but it is. How refreshing to see gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness personified by a young male character.

I just love how this book allows for different gender enactments without ever devaluing femininity or masculinity. This is my vision of gender equality in novels.


The novel leaves countless threads untied, which of course means a sequel will be forthcoming. I can’t wait for the next book. Until I have a daughter with whom I can read this series, I’ll content myself with collecting and vetting them all for her. I’m just a good pretend-mom like that.

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BLURB:  

PRINCESS INTERRUPTED is a tale about a fourteen-year-old daughter of a merchant king in the land of Trimoria named Arabelle. Her life of leisure is shattered when she suffers an attack from a poisonous creature that hasn't walked the land in over five centuries. 

Arabelle must learn to overcome the debilitating effects of the poison that courses through her body. All the while, she must resist monstrous foes that threaten her people and the ones she loves. 

She must do this while keeping a dark secret that only she can bear. 




*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

EXCERPT:

It was a few weeks ago that I had presented Father with hot tea that I had brewed myself. The compliments he’d given me motivated me to try something harder.

I was in Madam Mizmer’s stall, and she had set aside a charcoal grill for my use to test out my own recipes for a stew. As I stirred the bubbling pot, I wondered if my ingredients were going to turn into something edible. When Alexandra looked into my pot and smelled the steam rising from it, the look she tried to hide was one of mixed revulsion and panic.

“What did you put in it, Princess?” She politely asked.

I looked worriedly at the creation and said, “Well, I like pickled onions and raspberries, so I started with those and just added some other things.”

Alexandra backed away and smiled. “Well, Princess, you never know. You have certainly created something unique.”

I grumbled. “Unique is polite speech for horrible.”

She shook her head. “No, sometimes you can’t predict such things. When will it be done?”

I cringed as I got a strong whiff of the brewing concoction. “I think it needs more time. Let me continue stirring.”

Suddenly Zoe came running into the stall panting heavily as she yelled, “Slavers! Slaves! Uhh…Escaped!”

“Calm down and take a breath. What are you trying to say?”

After deeply breathing in and out several times, Zoe said with wide-eyed excitement, “A bunch of slaves escaped from slavers and one of our scouting parties found them and brought them in. One of them is even a baby dwarf with a teeny tiny beard!”

I looked down at my stew and muttered, “Bah!” I lifted it off the grill and said, “I think it might get better when it’s cooled off.” I turned back to Zoe. “Can you lead me there?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

I've been writing throughout my career as an engineer, however my writing had been relegated to technical books and technical magazine articles. Heck, you might even find a couple of those musty tomes still for sale if you look hard enough.

With my foray into epic fantasy, I've shed the shackles of technical writing and created novels that I hope will be attractive to a much wider audience.

I've always admired truly epic tales. You know the ones I mean. The book you crack open, wander through and utterly get immersed in. The story takes you on twists and turns you never expected, run into dead-ends that make you wheel your arms backward to prevent you from falling into an endless abyss. By the time you reach what you think is the end, you've read hundreds of pages and realize the end is really only the beginning of the story.

You close the book and wonder out loud. "Do I have the next book? Is it out yet?"

My goal when I started writing the first book (HEIRS OF PROPHECY) that involved the Riverton family was to make a story that would allow a younger audience access to such a tale. Since then, a second book (TOOLS OF PROPHECY) was released, and now I introduce the third book in the series with LORDS OF PROPHECY. 

As to my other writing activities, I've completed another as of yet unreleased novel in the Prophecies series, and they are scheduled to be released as soon as - well, as soon as the paperwork on them is complete, and the lawyers nod their heads up and down.

I hope you enjoy the novel.

In the meantime, if you want to see my ramblings, I lurk at the following social media portals:
Twitter - @MichaelARothman
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/MichaelARothman
Blog - http://michaelarothman.com/

Comments

  1. Thanks for the wonderful words. It’s funny how things work out, but you aren’t the first person who has commented on my breaking some stereotypes and working gender politics into the story. I certainly didn’t consciously did it, but I do have to say that you’ve really captured the essence of the characters in the story. Nicely written summary of who/what the characters are, I couldn’t have done better myself.

    I will be referencing this review from my blog/twitter/etc. I would absolutely love it if you get a chance to post this review on Amazon. I’d love for others to see your words.

    Thanks,
    Mike Rothman

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    Replies
    1. Oh, one more thing. This was a prequel - so the next novel is already out there in the form of “Heirs of Prophecy” ;-)

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    2. Thank you for your kind words, Michael. I'm so thrilled you find my analysis of the plot and the characters both useful and accurate. I'm honored, especially since I wrote this review at 3 am. ;) Perhaps as a result, this review is much more emotional than analytical. Last night at four (!) when getting into bed, I told my partner, "I found the book I'm gonna read to our daughter! Awesome gender politics." My partner said something like, "Nmm hgniflk."

      I'm all over posting this to Amazon. It's a little lengthy, so I'll probably chop it a bit.

      Thanks for this lovely story, and I'm off to buy _Heirs of Prophecy_ for my mother, another avid reader, and me. :)

      Delete
    3. Rereading your author bio, I see you discuss this as a series. My apologies for not noting (or noticing) that before. I blame 3 am. ;)

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    4. Heck, I love the entire review - I’m pretty sure Amazon would take a direct cut-and-paste of the whole thing. ;-)

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  2. Great excerpt, thank you.

    Kit3247(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  3. This just continues to sound better and better.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing the great excerpt and the giveaway. Sounds like a great book. evamillien at gmail dot com

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  5. Thanks so much, Rita, Jane, and Eva, for your comments. I urge you all to check out this super sweet and kinda gritty YA novel.

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  6. Thanks for the excerpt and the chance to win!
    Sounds like a great read!!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

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    Replies
    1. Totally a great read, Natasha. I hope you enjoy!

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  7. Wow - this sounds like a fab book! Putting it on my list!!

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    Replies
    1. I thought of you a lot while writing this review, LJ. I think you'll like it. I'm gonna buy it for Mom, too; I really think she'll enjoy.

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  8. I do have a daughter, so it's all good.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow what a kick butt review! You really have a way with words Elle...Thanks for sharing!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete

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