The Princess Curse is written by Merrie Haskell. It was published in 2011 by Harper.
Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward. Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money, which could buy her a position as a master herbalist. But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing .Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?
I love how the setting of The Princess Curse is a combination of mythic and historical, with the story taking place in Romania (I think?) with mentions of Hungary, Transylvania, and other Eastern European countries (or provinces). There’s also a strong, latent Greek myth presence beneath all the Romanian folktales.
I also love how this story combined the “12 Dancing Princesses” and “Beauty and the Beast” in a way that made so much sense and worked really well. I thought the “12 Dancing Princesses” part was really unique, not only because Reveka is a girl but also because the setting and everything else was done so well that it really made it stand out from other iterations of the same fairy tale. As for the “Beauty and the Beast” part, well, I love “Beauty and the Beast.”
I loved Reveka’s snark and the sarcastic and dry humor scattered throughout the book; in fact, on the very top of the second page of the book is this absolutely wonderful sarcastic rejoinder that immediately made me realize that I was going to love this book. And I did, for the most part.
My one quibble with the book that kept me from absolutely loving it was that it felt incomplete, a little, at the end. There were still a few loose ends and I was disappointed that after introducing “Beauty and the Beast,” Haskell wasn’t going to actually finish telling that story. I would have loved a “5 years later” epilogue, but even better would be a sequel where Reveka finds a cure for the Underworld.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Mistress Adina,” I said, “have you considered yew?”
“Yew!” She rocked back in her chair, sucking one tooth thoughtfully. “What for? It’s poison.”
“It’s been…it’s been known to raise the dead.”
She laughed. “I never heard that!”
I flushed. “I read it! In a book!” I had, though it was about a year before, in Moldavia.
And she laughed again. “Who taught you herb lore, Reveka?”
The Princess Curse has a wonderful mythical-crossed-with-the-historical setting that I have come to love from Haskell (Handbook for Dragons Slayers has a similar setting), and I absolutely loved Reveka’s sarcasm. The combination of the 12 Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast was highly original and really well done, but I wish that the end of the book didn’t feel quite so unfinished.
You can buy this here: The Princess Curse