Estara (estara ) wrote,
  • Mood: happy

Just finished reading: Sherwood Smith's Once a Princess (with spoilers)

How rare and delightful: two excellent books read in two days (and not just rare because my eye trouble isn't over yet, only lying low for a while). And they're very different too, so they don't take away from each other.

Once a Princess (Sasharia En Garde)


Once a Princess - now out in print - is part of Smith's overarching Satorias-deles world and set in a time which previous books have already touched on (although I don't think there were any familiar faces so far, the one truly mysterious group showing up obviously has ties to characters we already know, but I haven't read about them yet), which makes certain references to military training or the inheritance of magic powers much easier to understand (I do have a feeling that the situation and flair of the hero had quite a bit similarity to Vidanric of Crown Duel, but as we get pov from him as well it's not as frustrating for the reader as it was then).

What I read Sherwood Smith most for are the women however. I love the set-up at the start: mother and daughter, nominally princesses in Satorias-deles, have to flee from a successful coup and wait for the father/prince to come get them. The mother having been a flower-power hippie had embraced the other world with all joy, being aware of her own beauty and strength she even had flirted with the ursurper - hoping to turn into a successful Mata Hari, maybe - even though the love she shared with the missing husband (whom we don't get that much an impression of) comes across as quite real.

A loving woman, happily married, who is NOT beyond machinations, if it's for the good of her family: I love it. I also love the despair and eventual disillusion when after 15 years there's no sign of husband/father coming for them, but occasional attempts of the bad guys trying to find them on Earth. It makes the mother cranky and she finds herself a beau who can keep her in style (the only thing that didn't quite ring true in the one scene with that sympathetic if sceptic character is my severe disbelief that he would have spent so much money just for the pleasure of her company in cultural interests, and not have eventually expected to share her bed, too).

Her daughter, eventually fed up with having to move every few years, settles down to waitressing and studying in LA, never building closer friendships (but still able to be a part of fencing and martial arts dojos and compete at an amateur level, which is not how organised sports usually work over here: you get to take part in competitions if you're part of the club and not just because you're a brilliant outsider). She's got a great body and very frizzy hair, she's tall and has a hawk nose like her dad.

Which eventually lets other interested parties (for the return of the missing prince/heir to the throne) find her and drag her back to Sartorias-deles. I'm not going to recap all that happens, just that I was mightily impressed with her keeping her head and being really mistrustful of everyone (even the ones that the author sets up clearly as well-meaning) because they all have their own agendas and she has a big secret she can't trust to anyone. And how in the course of the story, she makes mistakes and they have consequences and so does the hero, and some they realise and some they don't. There is attraction between the two, but this is not a romance novel as such, so no consummation or HEA at the end.

Actually the mother, coming after her daughter after it is clear that she's missing, fairly soon ends up in the grasp of the ursurper and has to do a very careful dance, as this man STILL is charming and good-looking, as well as utterly egoistic and amoral (planning to do away with his wife and marrying his son to her daughter so that his reign finally gets some legal underpinnings).

And then there's the help-meet at the head of the army who usually does all the dirty work without having any scruples and thinks his son/nephew (I wasn't quite clear on that) would make a great next king and certainly not the wimpy, arty prince from the usurper's previous marriage.

Even the side characters are detailed: Gill with her crush on her captain, Elva and her scepticism which makes her finally leave the whole situation and just go looking for some quiet, Kaelende the cook and his wife with her perfumed fans, Owl (who almost smothers Sasharia in a quilt), and Devlaen who's really hoping they have a wanted poster of him with a reward (as he has joined the resistance now).

I can't wait until Twice a Prince (Sasharia En Garde) comes out ^^... or for any other Sartorias-deles story!

Bonus: A really great book trailer by a happy reader!
Tags: book, books, crown duel, once a princess, review, sasharia, senrid, sherwood smith, wren
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