Book Review : The Princess Will Save You

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Princess Will Save YouThe Princess Will Save You (The Princess Will Save You, #1) by Sarah Henning
Published by Tor Teen on July 7th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 368
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Source: NetGalley

When her father dies, Princess Amarande is given an ultimatum: Marry the leader of one of the four neighboring kingdoms, or lose her crown—and possibly her life. And to force her hand, her beloved, the stable boy Luca, is kidnapped.
But Amarande was raised to be a warrior, not a sacrifice.
And nothing will stop her from saving her true love and rescuing her kingdom.
The acclaimed author of Sea Witch turns the classic damsel-in-distress tale on its head with this story of adventure, identity, and love.

It’s been several years since I’ve watched The Princess Bride, and though I’ve never read the novel, the movie left an impression on me. Sadly, I can’t say the same for this retelling from the perspective of the female love interest. Though an absolutely brilliant idea on author Susan Henning’s part, I found the execution to be sorely lacking. There was simply not enough background information, character development, or world building for my liking. However, I think die hard fans of The Princess Bride and readers new to fantasy will enjoy reading The Princess Will Save You.


“It was an open secret within the castle that Princess Amarande of Ardenia spent far too much of her time here, and with this boy, Luca. It hadn’t been anything to worry about until recently.”


I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I really feel I should have judged the book by its title: The Princess Will Save You. The title is not subtle and perfectly encapsulates the entire novel in its simplicity. There are countless trite phrases such as, “In a single breath, everything had changed” that is then used to cringingly segue into a man falling over dead from an actual cough. How punny.


Not too surprisingly, Princess Amarande, our heroine,does in fact spend the entire novel trying to save the stableboy, Luca, she has grown to love. Sadly, Luca does not seem to have any qualities other than loving the Princess, being kind, attractive, and well, a good stableboy with what one can assume is a knack for horses–maybe? Though the author gives him a catchphrase to match “Farm Boy” from The Princess Bride it lacks the charm of the original, as the speaker of “always”–not “as you wish”–has little to no personality or existence outside of the titular princess.


The relationship of Princess Amarande and her stableboy is equally as lacking. There is no build up of their friendship, cultivated since they were children. No scraped knees, comfort, dealing with pesky differences of birth from other bratty, noble children–nothing.  All there is, is a a bit of prose before the novel even starts to sum up the entire main relationship of the novel: 


“They met as most friends do. Right place, right age, right interests in common. Picking up sticks in the dirt, calling them swords. Bumps and bruises and shared smiles. And then when it came time to separate, suddenly it felt impossible. The newness dissolved the shared hours into the seed of something more. Something shaped in a way that forever stretched where the newness ended. Something that, later, felt very much like love.”


This is all the hints we get to Princess Amarande and Luca’s past or current feelings, as the events of the novel are thrust to the forefront and certain characters are soon in need of rescuing by their Princesses. I was dismayed that all it took was receiving a ransom note referring to the kidnapped Luca as Amarande’s “love” for her to realize she actually harbored romantic feelings for her childhood friend. And it wasn’t much of a revelation at all, more like a “it’s raining today and I will need an umbrella” acceptance. I don’t think I could have been any less invested in this relationship if the author had literally tried. Plus, call me crazy, but Luca’s blind devotion and loyalty to Amarande seemed a little insane.


Luca had 100% faith that Amarande would risk starting a war by running away from her kingdom, currently without a ruler (she has to be married in order to take the throne) and ripe for the plucking. He doesn’t think about how she had countless suitors from countries seeking her hand and alliance and how such a union could save the world from the devastating results of war. He doesn’t think about any of the repercussions and neither does his princess, except in passing. What great qualities in a future ruler of a country! I was also pretty horrified that Luca View Spoiler » The author really takes her gender stereotyped swap seriously, for Luca is definitely the classic pure-hearted and weak maiden in need of rescue in this tale.


“My princess won’t bow to your demands. But what she will do is come for me, which means she’s coming for you, whether I’m alive or not” 


For me, the best part of The Princess Will Save You was by far Princess Amarande. She was headstrong, intelligent, and determined. Though, for someone who is supposedly so good in battle, and a highly trained warrior-king’s daughter, she certainly needs to be saved a lot, even by those with no combat training–despite her very dreadful and constantly repeated iterations of her father’s words to live by every chance she gets, And when she needs rescuing, it’s typically from the consequences of her own impulsive actions. Luckily for both her and for Luca, most of the villains in the novel aren’t so villainous after all and are happy to help the pair out. Those that are the true villains, however, have absolutely zero redeeming qualities. There is no middle ground with anything in The Princess Will Save You–you’re either good or bad, in love or not in love. Bo-ring.


You may think me too harsh of a judge for a book clearly intended for younger audiences, but as a person who grew up reading Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley (sidenote: both absolutely phenomenal authors that I reread even as an adult, with the latter writing amazing fairy tale retellings), I think the author definitely could have added more complexities to her novel. This is especially true when one’s story is trying to live up to something as beloved as The Princess Bride–a story which offers a memorable and heartfelt romance, humor, action, and drama. Sadly, this retelling offered none of those things in my opinion. I don’t recall a single time laughing aloud when reading The Princess Will Save You and found nothing swoon worthy about the romance of two people who clearly weren’t on equal footing in any way.


 If only The Princess Will Save You had taken more time building up its characters and its world, so I felt more invested in Princess Amarande risking her entire throne and its kingdom to rescue her stableboy. Also it is not enough to just be told that she rushes off to save him “because she loves him”–readers have to be shown this love and sadly, that is not something at which the novel succeeds. In fact, the novel could just as easily be titled “The Princess Will Save You Just Because She Feels Like It For Some Reason” or “The Princess Will Save You Because That’s What She’s Supposed to Do” and either would be just as fitting as the actual title–that’s how little development there is. Likewise, the threat of countries going to war with Amarande’s kingdom doesn’t feel quite so pressing when we know very little about Amarande’s kingdom, the other countries, what a war between any of these countries would mean for its constituents, etc. 


Despite all of this, I was pleasantly surprised by what the author managed to come up with for the ending. Though I saw one of the developments coming from a mile away View Spoiler », I did not see the other coming View Spoiler ». I hope the sequel will test Amarande’s battle merits and wits more and Luca’s capability at anything other than being in love with his Princess. In all honesty, I would read this sequel just to fulfill some mild curiosity at what happens, but would not spend any money on future installments in order to do so, because I know the Amarande and Luca will, without a doubt end up living happily ever after they deal with a few minor bumps in the road.


If you like guaranteed happy endings and extremely straightforward stories, or heck, even just want to gobble up anything related to The Princess Bride, The Princess Will Save You is perfect for you. Just don’t expect The Princess Will Save You to be on the same level as The Princess Bride–at all. Sadly, I think the bar was simply set too high for this book. But it could still be just right for middle grade readers just getting interested in fantasy or romance. However, if you like a lot more substance to your novels, like character development and growth, world-building, this is not the book for you.



Book Review : The Princess Will Save You - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 19, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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