While today’s review is for a young adult novel, it’s an author I discovered through MMGM. Two years ago I won a copy of SEEING CINDERELLA by Jenny Lundquist, and it was my favorite middle grade read of 2012. I also enjoyed her second MG, PLASTIC POLLY, so I was excited to read THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK, the first in her YA series. This book is very different from her middle grade stories, and it took a little longer to hook me, but once it did, I couldn’t put it down. Here’s the description.
In the faraway village of Tulan, sixteen-year-old Elara has spent her entire life as a servant, trying to track down her real name. The name she was given before being orphaned. Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Galandria, Princess Wilhamina does not know why her father, the king, makes her wear a mask. Or why she is forbidden to ever show her face.
When a new peace treaty between Galandria and Kyrenica is threatened, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face. Told in alternating perspectives, this intricate fairytale pulls both girls toward secrets that have been locked away behind castle doors, while the fate of two opposing kingdoms rests squarely on their untrained shoulders.
Here are the five things I loved most about this book:
1. Elara and Wilha – These two girls are so different, and yet there are interesting parallels. It’s quite the study in nature versus nurture. I liked how Ms. Lundquist introduced each of the girls with a focus on names.
Elara: Somewhere in the kingdom of Galandria, someone knows my real name. When I was a small child I was dumped on the Royal Orphanage’s doorstep, like a sack of rotten potatoes. In return, the orphanage dumped me with the Ogden family and told them to choose a name for me. Mistress Ogden called me Elara, after a girl from her childhood village. (“Dirtiest, most disgusting brat I’ve ever known,” she’s fond of saying.) One day I intend to find the name I’ve lost. And when I do, I’ll declare the name Mistress Ogden gave me worthless, just as she has always declared me worthless.
Wilha: From my chambers in the Opal Palace, I hear the people chanting my name. It is not my birth name they chant, but the other name. The one that has always overshadowed everything else. Their cries pelt in through the open window, insistent and demanding, like a nettlesome song that you cannot get out of your head. Masked Princess! Masked Princess! Masked Princess!
2. The expected – I’d be surprised if someone didn’t figure out the first twist, but I totally bought into waiting for the characters to find out what was going on. The tension was solid, and for that reason I liked that I knew what was coming.
3. The unexpected – Here’s why knowing some of what was coming worked–because there was more beneath the surface to be discovered. There were several times in the book when the characters acted in ways I didn’t anticipate, but it still made sense for them to do so. That’s hard to pull off.
4. The romance – There are so many potential romances going on in this story, and only one of them is sort of resolved at the end of this book. It is a series, so I expect that. I think it was a great call to handle the romance the way Ms. Lundquist did. It’s one of many threads I want to see play out in the rest of the series.
5. The ending – This book left me wanting more. It’s not a total cliffhanger, but it’s definitely not a stand-alone either. I felt enough resolution to be satisfied for now, and that’s the kind of ending I like for the first book in a series.
Who else has read THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK? Thoughts?