(Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover)
Princess Ben's parents are killed by assassins and her life changes drastically. Overnight, she is moved from her comfy home into the palace, under the rule of the harsh Queen Sophia. The Queen demands that Ben learn to dance, crochet, and converse in several languages. Ben is also put on a strict diet and when is found sneaking food, she is banished to a dreary tower room. In the tower, she finds a secret magical room and begins to teach herself magic. It is there that the she finds the inner strength to help defend her country against its enemies.
Princess Ben is a spunky, unique heroine. She is not ashamed of her weight and she certainly doesn't need a man to make decisions for her. I enjoyed reading about all of her adventures and misadventures. This is Catherine Murdock's first foray into fantasy and she does a great job of turning around the normal fairy tale. In fact, she has the princess wake up the prince with a kiss. Fans of her other books, Dairy Queen and The Off Season, may be a little disappointed. The minor characters aren't as well drawn out in this book. We hardly know anything of Prince Florian, and Queen Sophia is painted as a frightfully vicious character and then, somewhat unbelievable, undergoes a radical transformation. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but, once in, I was hooked. There is an especially funny battle scene towards the end...You'll have to read it to find out more. :-)