Fairy Tale Friday: Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Princess of Glass, by Jessica Day George, was published in 2010 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Having once been cursed to dance every night with her sisters, Princess Poppy has vowed never again to put on a pair of dancing slippers. Which is why she’s reluctant to participate in the royal exchange program that her father and some of their neighbor kings have cooked up. Life in far-off Breton isn’t so bad, not when there’s money to be own playing cards and a handsome prince promising friendship…and maybe something more. But when a hapless servant named Eleanora enters the picture and sets her sights on the prince, too, which girl will win his heart? And who is behind the magnificent gowns and slippers that the penniless Eleanora has been wearing to the balls? Only Princess Poppy can see through the magic that holds the rest of the kingdom in its spell. And having fought against one curse before, she’s just the girl to take on another!

Rating: 2/5

Princess of Glass is a fairly unique take on Cinderella, following the bare bones of the tale but branching off and fitting it into the larger picture of George’s fantasy world. I’m not a huge fan of the Cinderella fairy tale aside from the 2015 live-action remake, but George does a good job of changing the tale up so it’s not so straightforward and predictable.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I liked about the book. George seems to be hit-and-miss with me; I enjoyed Princess of the Midnight Ball and most of the Castle Glower books, but had problems with Dragon Slippers and now this book. I don’t think it’s the world or the plot in and of itself that made me dislike Princess of Glass; it’s the way George delivers it. Maybe it’s a writing style issue, maybe not. I’m not sure. I just know that the more of the book I read, the more I wanted it to be over.

Perhaps the melodrama that happens when Eleanora becomes “Lady Ellen” and enchants everyone is what started my dislike; Christian is fighting it and yet not fighting it and thinking melodramatic things and seems to be the only person under the spell who realizes something isn’t quite right. Then there’s the thoroughly unconvincing romance between Roger and Eleanora, and the slightly less unconvincing but still not very well-developed romance between Christian and Poppy, combined with a villain whose motives are confusing until a character conveniently infodumps her backstory near the end of the book.

Maybe the best way to describe how I felt about Princess of Glass is “sloppy.” George had a good idea regarding the retelling of Cinderella and then sloppily executed it. There’s too much infodumping, too much melodrama, and too much convenience. It almost makes me want to not read another Jessica Day George book. Princess of Glass did absolutely nothing to make me appreciate “Cinderella” more and only contributed to the many reasons why I would prefer reading a retelling of any other fairy tale.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Young Adult

“You are a strenge gel, Princessss Puppy,” the duchess said. “He-ere you are, with ev-er-y young man in Breton to dence with you, and you well not dence.”

“Ah,” Poppy said after deciphering this. “No. I don’t den—dance.”

“Wuh-hy not?” The duchess raised one overplucked eyebrow.

“Because my mother and sisters and I were cursed to dance for the pleasure of an evil king,” Poppy thought. She reached up and straightened her knitted silk choker. “I do not care for dancing,” she said finally.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2q8XkWq

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George, was published in 2007 by Bloomsbury.

Many stories tell of damsels in distress who are rescued from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons by knights in shining armor and swept off to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories. True, when Creel’s aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that a knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it’s Creel who talks her way out of the dragon’s clutches. And it’s Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king’s city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession. But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.

When I first read Dragon Slippers a couple of years ago, I loved it. Recently, I’ve been having a desire to fill my life with dragons, so I picked it up again. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Dragon Slippers as much this time around.

I think the concept of it is great; I like the dragons, the slippers, the conspiracy, and the rest. George does a good job with the world and I especially liked the bittersweet feel to the idea of dragons being controlled. We have enough of a connection to Shardas to understand Creel’s pain, and it’s especially heartbreaking when we see the havoc wreaked upon the stained glass. Forcing someone to destroy what is theirs is awful, and that awfulness is reflected in the text nicely.

So, I didn’t really have a problem with the concept or the plot. It was the characters and their interactions with which I had the most problems. I liked Creel, and I liked that in the book her role was of the “more traditional” variety of embroidery and dressmaking. I’m sick of girl protagonists who scoff at sewing and want to do swordfighting instead. What’s wrong with sewing? But still, I found some of the things that revolved around her a bit too hard to swallow. Such as her relationship with Luka. I found no earthly reason for Luka to be so interested in Creel. Okay, yeah, so she’s “different” from the other girls—but she’s not so different from Marta that it would stand out so much. I suppose it was the old “She reacted differently from everyone else I know; therefore I like her,” in which case, blah. That’s been done a million times before and I’m not fond of it anymore.

I also didn’t like the one-dimensional feel to Larkin, as well as the overall “new girl arrives in town and is incredibly forthright and shuns propriety and those who praise her become her friends and those who censor her are petty and jealous losers” feel to the novel as a whole.

Yes to dragons, no to tropes is basically how I feel about Dragon Slippers.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some violence.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“By the Seven Volcanoes,” the gold dragon swore. “Where did you come by those slippers?” Its head dropped down so that its long muzzle lay on the ground and it could gaze at my feet from a distance of less than a pace. I twitched nervously but tried not to move otherwise, still fealing the heat of its fire on my face.

“I got them from Theoradus, the brown dragon of Carlieff,” I repeated, my voice hardly more than a whisper and all my false bravado gone.

“He simply gave them to you? There must have been a reason. Tell me, girl, what caused him to such a thing?”

Overall Review:

I loved Dragon Slippers when I first read it, but this time around I found a few flaws, such as the tired-out tropes and some weak character interactions. I also found the pacing of the book to be a little weird, but that could have been just me. But still, Dragon Slippers is a decently good book about dragons, and younger readers would enjoy it.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1WDZKFX

Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George

Fridays with the Wizards, by Jessica Day George, was published in 2016 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to Thursdays with the Crown.

Fridays at Castle Glower are as exciting as ever for Celie, Lilah, and Rolf, with newborn griffins hatching left and right, new Castle passageways to explore, and an out-of-the-blue wedding to plan. But when the dangerous, ancient wizard Arkwright escapes from the dungeon, no one can rest until he is found. Celie has an idea of where he may be hiding, but the only way to stop him could be to erase parts of the Castle for good. With danger lurking behind every tapestry and under every trapdoor, can Celie outsmart Arkwright fast enough to save her family and Castle Glower?

I thought Thursdays with the Crown was going to be the last Castle Glower book, but Fridays with the Wizards proved me wrong. And after reading, I’m fairly certain that Saturdays with the Unicorns (it will totally be called that) will come at some point. I’m not upset that a series continued when I thought it was finished, but despite its high points, Fridays only served as a reminder of how far the series has gone from that first book.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The first book in a series usually does tend to stand-alone, and things established in Tuesdays at the Castle remained consistent throughout the series. I only wish that Wednesdays in the Tower and the sequels didn’t feel quite so divorced from Tuesdays, as if George went “ah! This is how I’ll continue it!” in Wednesdays and then strung all the other books together, leaving Tuesdays alone in the front.

As an individual book, though, Fridays is really nice. I wasn’t all that fond of Thursdays, but Fridays brings back a lot of the humor and ridiculousness that I loved from the first book and kept up the string of plot events that have taken place from the second book on. It also has tons of development for various characters, such as Rolf, Celie’s mother, and Celie herself. And like I said, I’m pretty sure the next book will be about Celie’s and Lilah’s quest for the unicorns, and if it’s not titled Saturdays with the Unicorns, I will be upset. Make it so, Jessica Day George!

 Also…the future Pogue/Celie vibes are strong in this book. I know it’s middle grade, and the series will never go on so long that we’ll see Celie become old enough to date/marry, but if it does and we do, it will totally be Pogue.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Arkwright’s still in the Castle,” she blurted out.

“What?” Bran turned away from watching Lord and Lady Griffin, wings beating in unison, carry an enormous beam to the top of the shed. “No! We’ve searched, asked the Castle, and then searched again.” Bran shook his head. “I don’t know what happened to Maisy, or how he’s getting in to steal the food and blankets, but he’s not here now.”

“He’s in the passageways,” Celie insisted.

“How could he be in the passageways?” Bran said. “There are guards patrolling them now. Maids and footmen going up and down, not to mention—”

“The secret passageways!”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/24Xyvv0

Thursdays With The Crown: A Lovely Cast Of Characters

Thursdays with the Crown is written by Jessica Day George. It was published in 2014 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to Wednesdays in the Tower.

Thursdays at Castle Glower have never been spent so far from home. After the Castle transports Princess Celie, Prince Lulath, Pogue, and Celie’s siblings, Rolf and Lilah, to an unknown land, they find themselves in the sleeping ruins of the Castle, in a world full of wild griffins and scheming wizards. Without the Castle to guide her, Celie is unsure whom to trust—especially when two strange wizards claim to be the Castle’s original keepers. She and the others must set out into the unknown if they hope to awaken the Castle and return home. As they learn the story of the Castle’s origins, a truth fraught with secrets is revealed. But Celie knows the Castle best of all, and with the help of her pet griffin, Rufus, and her motley crew, she must find a way to save the Castle and get them all home safe and sound. 

So many griffins! So much awesomeness involving griffins!

George has a really nice subversion of the “protagonists learn one thing from one person, and then find someone else with a different version of said thing.” Usually in that trope, the second person is the correct one, and the protagonist switches allegiances. In Thursdays with the Crown, however, George accentuates more the way people, especially old wizards who have lived in a certain land forever and have had plenty of time to scheme and mope around and be self-righteous, use ignorance to their advantage.

I discovered reading this book that I actually enjoy the character interaction more than I cared about the plot. George has a rather large cast of characters, but each one is unique and all together they mesh really well. In the last book I thought the plot turned into a really strange direction, and this book continued that direction, but the character interaction was so great that the plot just sort of slid on by unnoticed. I did really like the bit with the poisoned water at the end, though.

Speaking of “meshing well,” I know Celie is only twelve and these books are not romances (except in the sense that Lilah has suitors, and at the end of this book is kissing Lulath in hallways), but…I was getting such a strong future Pogue/Celie vibe in this book, especially at the end.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Is he not the very wonder of wonders?” Lulath said a moment later, in Sleynth. His voice was reverent. “I shall be naming him Lorcan the Destroyer.”

“No! It’s not fair!” Darryn scrambled to his feet.

“The griffin has chosen,” the Arkower intoned, but his face was not pleased.
“It’s my turn!” Darryn repeated.

“And you failed,” the other young man sad sadly. “Again. Just like we all fail, time and again.”

Overall Review:

I love the characters of this trilogy (series?) so much and they interact so well with each other. I still think the plot was a little strange, but it was continued much more smoothly than I thought it was in the second book. There were also lots of awesome griffins which endeared me more than in the previous book. A good series, but I think the first book is the best of the three and the second and third are only necessary to read if you want to spend more time with the characters.

You can buy this here: Thursdays with the Crown

Fairy Tale Friday: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Princess of the Midnight Ball was written by Jessica Day George. It was published in 2009 by Bloomsbury.

Summary/Blurb:

“Princess Rose is the eldest of twelve sisters condemned to dance each night for the wicked King Under Stone in his palace deep within the earth. It is a curse that has haunted the girls since their birth—and only death will set them free.

Then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure and a resolve that matches her own, and freedom suddenly begins to seem a little less impossible. To defeat the king and his dark court, they will need one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love.”

Thoughts:

Every time I read an adaptation of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” I can’t help but make comparisons to the sublime Entwined. I will endeavor not to fall into a comparison game for this book, which is actually quite different from Entwined and really only brought up fond memories of the latter.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is fairly lore-heavy, and I love it when authors take the time to build up that lore within their story. The world is very well-developed with the lore and I enjoyed the little aspects of it that George throws in, not to mention the plot-related aspects. The story itself is incredibly close to the original fairy tale as well, with an added relationship between Rose and Galen (and of course, the lore expanded to include the King Under Stone).

I did think Lily’s story line at the end came out of nowhere and seemed a bit too Fairy Tale Happy Ending Convenient. I also thought the witchcraft bit with the “They Must Burn!” bishop was an old, tired trope to include, not to mention stereotypical. I’m not quite sure what the point of including that was, either, except to generate more tension perhaps. At least not all of the bishops were like that.

I also really liked how Galen basically knitted his way to victory. His fight with the King Under Stone is 90% knitting and 10% shooting a gun, which is awesome. Lily also gets to fire a gun, which was awesome as well, since she gets to shoot a gun and wear a ball gown at the same time.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

Why hadn’t he fallen asleep as well? What were they to do if he was wide awake at midnight? Hope rose in her bosom. If Galen could resist the sleeping spell that had affected all the other suitors, then he might be able to uncover their secret and…what? Die horribly? She grimaced, her hope fading.

“Is something the matter?” Galen gave her a bland look.

“Oh, look at the time!” Jonquil jumped to her feet, almost knocking Hyacinth off the window seat. “I’ve got to change my shoes and—Why is he awake?

~George 147-148

Overall Review:

Princess of the Midnight Ball is an adaptation of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” that really expands on the lore and world to create a beautiful setting with a predictable, but cute romance, and a hero who basically wins by knitting. There were a few convenient moments, as well as some stereotypical ones, but overall Princess of the Midnight Ball was a delight to read.

You can buy this here: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Wednesdays in the Tower: “You’re Not A Roc”

Wednesdays in the Tower is written by Jessica Day George. It was published in 2013 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle. George’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Wednesday at Castle Glower is an ordinary, ho-hum sort of day. No new hallways, no extra turrets, no sudden changes. At least according to Princess Celie, who knows the Castle better than anyone. So Celie is surprised when, one Wednesday, she happens upon a new tower, with a new room, and a giant orange egg hidden inside.

Celie doesn’t know what to do, and neither does her brother Bran, the new Royal Wizard. But the Castle knows. As staircases spring up and doorways disappear, the Castle’s plan becomes clear: Celie is to care for the egg and whatever creature it hatches! Of course, she hadn’t bargained for a pet, and this one will prove tricky, once Celie and her siblings realize what else the Castle is hiding….”

Thoughts:

More Castle Glower! More Celie! More fun! I love how George mixes the fun and humor with a pretty complex plot; it reminds me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones’s style. This plot goes into detail what was only glanced over in the first book, namely the origins of Castle Glower, and opened up the world in a nice way.

I have to say, the plot sort of blindsided me a bit. I wasn’t expecting griffins, or the Glorious Arkower, or the bit at the end. It was great, but unexpected. In a good way, though.

Speaking of griffins, Celie’s attempts to hide Rufus and her shock when Rolf just walks right by the door where Rufus is hidden were hilarious. I love the rapport between the siblings, and Lulath’s language is so much fun to read. These are some really great, memorable characters that George has created. And of course, who could forget the Castle?

Flat Squirrel. Chortle.

However, I’m not sure I like this book as much as the first. I’m still a bit blindsided by the plot, I think, and confused about what happened at the end. And there was a cliffhanger, sigh.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

The egg simply exploded, shards flying everywhere, as Celie cowered, her arms protecting her face. When it was done, she lowered her arms and looked at the wet, crying, and terribly hideous creature in the nest.

“You’re not a roc,” she said uncertainly.

The creature stumbled toward the sound of her voice, screeching. It tripped over its long lion’s tail and fell on its eagle face, wings entangled in its claws.

“What am I going to do with a griffin?” Celie wailed.

~George 17

“You are all the best of Grathian speakers,” Lulath enthused, spreading his arms wide.

Celie snapped her attention back to Lulath, who had just finished helping them through the last page of the Grathian primer they’d been studying. He looked like he was near tears, and his dogs, sensing his emotion, were prancing in circles around his feet.

“I never thought, that here in the Castle of Glower, I would have so many, many of friends who would come to a learning of my language!”

~George 129-130

Overall Review:

Same great cast of characters as the first book, same fun shenanigans and dialogue. The Glorious Arkower part of the plot really threw me off, and I’m still wondering if I like it or not. However, the plot really opens up the world that George created, which is a good thing.

You can buy this here: Wednesdays in the Tower

Tuesdays at the Castle: Children Saving The Day With Their Sentient Castle!

Tuesdays at the Castle is written by Jessica Day George. It was published in 2011 by Bloomsbury. George’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Tuesday at Castle Glower is Princess Celie’s favorite day. That’s when the Castle magically grows a new room, a turret, or sometimes an entire wing. No one knows how or why the Castle does it, and no one except Princess Celie has ever bothered to map out the Castle’s many twists and turns. But when the king and queen disappear and Councilors from neighboring kingdoms arrive to “advise” the three Glower children, even the Castle seems to know that something is wrong….Take the new tower room, which is stocked with mysterious objects and has a knack for appearing just when Celia needs it. Then there is the secret passageway that leads the children to a room the Councilors don’t want them to know about. To find their parents and hold on to their kingdom, Celie and her siblings will need all their ingenuity, Celie’s maps, plus some help from their beloved Castle—before it’s too late.”

Thoughts:

This book was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. The idea of a sentient castle is very original for the most part, and the fact that children are the ones who saved the kingdom just makes me chuckle. This is what makes Middle Grade fiction so great, right here. Great plot + great characters + original concept = happiness. I never knew that I could have so many feels about a castle. But the part where the castle wakes up because Celie gets hurts and then gets rid of Khelsh and then goes all soft so she doesn’t get hurt/killed is pretty much the best part of the book. I think the castle was my favorite character, seriously. There’s a sequel! Excitement! I have to read more Jessica Day George. I’ve actually read quite a few of her books, but I need to do it again because they’re that good.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: There’s a part at the end that could be a little scary to some younger readers. Think menacing prince attacking young princess.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy Passages/Quotes:

“They’re trying to take over the Castle,” Lilah hissed. “But let’s wait until we get to my room to explain.” “Is your room up there?” Pogue looked doubtfully at the spiraling staircase they had now passed twice. “I think this is the same staircase that was back there.” He had encountered the Castle’s foibles and changes many times, of course, but was not half as skilled at navigating them as the royal family. “My room should be right here,” Lilah said, frowning. “It keeps showing me this room,” Celie said, pointing up the stairs to the Spyglass Tower. “I’m starting to wonder if it’s important.” ~George 32 Celie turned to run, and there was only a large arch—the doors were gone—leaving the guards standing with startled expressions. She snatched up Lilah’s hand and pulled her older sister though the arch. They darted between the guards to another arch that had opened on the far side of the main hall. It closed behind them with a crash of stone, sealing the guards out, and the sisters looked around to find themselves in Celie’s room. Through another arch they could see Lilah’s room, and the other way out was the narrow staircase to the Spyglass Tower. Celie spun around, staring at the sudden changes. “How did the castle…this was never…” ~George 110-111

Overall Review:

I loved this book! Tuesdays at the Castle is probably one of my favorite contemporary fantasy Middle Grade books now and goes above and beyond the usual standard of quality. It’s fun, full of suspense, and the ending is so sweet that you almost forget that Castle Glower isn’t actually alive in the human sense.

You can buy this here: Tuesdays at the Castle