Today, I will be launching a brand new series on this blog called Between the Pages where I will be reviewing some of my favorite books. I have been reviewing books on Goodreads for a while so this is something that I am excited to incorporate into the blog as well. For those of you who don’t know, I am a massive bookworm, and I usually read over 200 books a year. I also track new releases each month and am very involved in the book world. I have also found that some of the best books I have ever read have been self published or published by small, indie companies. I love to support indie authors because I genuinely think that most of the time, the best books are written by smaller authors rather than big names. That’s why I have chosen to spotlight predominately indie authors on this blog.
The book that I have selected for the first post of this series is The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier, one of my favorite fairytale authors. I found this book on a whim back in 2016, and it was probably my favorite book of the 200+ books I had read that year. Why? Because reading this book was like spending 4 hours living in a Disney Princess movie. I was in fairytale heaven!
This book is loosely based on the Princess and the Pea, with a small tie in to Cinderella as well. The story begins just like the famous fairytale does, with Alyssa stumbling upon the Winter Castle, seeking shelter from the storm. The two young princess twins, Lily and Sophie, immediately take a liking to her. As a result, the King and Queen hire Alyssa as a Princess Companion (basically a nanny) to care for the young princesses. She immediately wins over the hearts of the royal family, namely Prince Max. See what I mean about this book being the novel equivalent of a Disney princess movie?
My absolute favorite part of the book was the world building, especially when the book moves from the Winter Castle to the Summer Palace in the capital of the Kingdom, Arcadie. For me, the most important part of any fairytale is the world building. I crave the feeling of being transported to a universe of castles, knights, dragons, and kingdoms. That is why world building is key. After reading this book, I feel like I really did travel through a fairytale kingdom, which is a sign of good world building.
“The soaring towers with their graceful spires mirrored the fairy tale castles of my imagination. I had never even dreamed of living in such a beautiful place and I felt overwhelmed by the thought that this was my new home.”
The first quarter of the book takes place in the smaller, more modest Winter Castle, and is used to set up the story and the characters. Once things move to the Summer Palace in the kingdom’s capital, the story really begins to pick up.
Alyssa stumbles upon some shady political conspiracies going on amongst the kingdom, while dealing with her growing feelings for the prince. The story keeps up the fairytale world building aspect with descriptions of day to day activities in the Summer Palace, filled with balls and excursions. Life in the palace is exciting and I felt like I was living vicariously through the characters, which is exactly what I look for in a fairytale novel. Here’s a taste of the dazzling world you’d get to read about if you picked up this book:
“The foreign delegations would receive an official greeting in the throne room and then be entertained with a dizzying succession of parties, concerts, routs, and excursions culminating in a grand ball on their last night.”
“The Palace seemed to be an endless maze of rooms. Inside, the white marble was softened by beautiful rugs and wood accents. The style was elegant and simple but the furnishings and decorations conveyed a sense of age and wealth.”
“Entering the ballroom felt like entering a fairytale. Lined with gilt-edged mirrors, the room appeared even bigger than it actually was, filled with a never ending sea of twirling dancers.”
Seriously though, if I could live in any book, it would probably be this one. I personally read to escape, and a lack of world building is usually the biggest issue when I cannot stay engaged in a fairytale or fantasy novel. I didn’t have any problems at all in this case!
Another thing that I like about this book is what it says about love at first sight. It calls out the unrealistic notion of love at first sight that is present in many fairytales. This book, despite being a fairytale retelling, acknowledges this. While I love fairytales, I am a realist. I love that this book contains a nod to that.
"The problem with love at first sight," she said, "is that it isn't really love. Infatuation, perhaps, but not love."
I recommend this book to anyone who likes a light, Disneyesque fairytale, similar to Annette Larsen's books. The majority of fairytales these days tend to overload with the magic/fantasy aspect, which I also enjoy, but it is hard to find fairytale novels that do not. I personally prefer fairytales that are more along the lines of a regency/period piece (but with castles, princesses, and far away lands) rather than magic filled high fantasy. It is refreshing to read a fairytale that is considered a fairytale because of the setting and atmosphere, while keeping the magic and otherworldly aspects light.
In my rating system, 4 stars out of 5 stars is hard to achieve, let alone 5. I chose to give this book a 5 star rating because this is the exact type of fairytale that I like to read, and I do not come across these often enough. I loved the fairytale world, the characters, the way the story was written, and the world building. I realize that I am extremely biased with these types of fairytale novels and it does not take as much to please me (to be honest, if a book has all the fairytale elements that I like, even if it is just halfway decent I would probably still give it 4 stars). However, I think that anyone who is looking for a light read would really enjoy this book. This book is yet another example of how sometimes, indie authors are the ones who write the best books and their books do not deserve to be overlooked. This book comes highly recommended by me!