REVIEW of The Thirteenth Princess by Nina Clare

Thirteenth PrincessYou’ve all heard the story of the twelve dancing princesses…but what about the thirteenth princess, the one with no name who was written out of the story? A blight on the perfect symmetry of her four sets of triplet siblings, “Princess” is the unpolished stone in a family of gems. But although she may not be mathematical, musical, artistic, or literary, “Princess” is full of heart and courage.

Orphaned at a young age, the girls are taken care of by a faery governess named Beryl. They watch as their nefarious Uncle rules as regent, driving the kingdom into misery and poverty with his despotic dictates. The law decrees that when the oldest sister takes a husband, that prince will become king. But Uncle has no plans to give up the throne, and he will use the blackest magic possible to make sure that any suitors for his nieces’ hands in marriage disappear into the netherworld. With the help of her beloved governess Beryl, Princess discovers the truth of Uncle’s plans. But can she awaken the minds of her grieving sisters before everything comes crumbling down?

This fairy tale is retold in gorgeous prose with a unique twist to the original. In some ways, it was more of a mother-daughter story than a romance, for although Princess receives both a name and a husband at the end, the story is more about the relationship between her and Beryl. Mysterious, selfless, and tender-hearted, Beryl is the perfect guardian for the gems in her care. I liked it that the older sisters, although there were too many of them to be distinct characters, were all kind and affectionate towards Princess.  Minor characters like Lapido, the taciturn gem carver, stand out with their originality but also their authenticity to the world of “once upon a time.”

I previously enjoyed Nina Clare’s retelling of Lohengrin in The Swan King, and this story of The Thirteenth Princess was even better.

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