I love retellings of familiar fairy tales. This week I will review two series that accomplish both of these things. However, my favorite of the two will be posted later this week.
First up is Melanie Cellier’s The Four Kingdom series. There are five full-length books and two novellas. All of them are perfectly clean and appropriate for children. And by children, I mean pre-teens/young teenagers. I guess they’re appropriate for even younger, but they aren’t going to be interesting for them.
Unfortunately, I cannot give a summary of the first book without giving away things in later books. I could give a vague overview of each book, but you’ll find that in the listings on Amazon. So, instead, I’m going to give you my impressions about each of the characters.
The Princess Companion: Alyssa is a woodcutter’s daughter with a knack for learning. She also loves telling stories. Because of her responsible but fun personality, she is hired as a companion to twin princesses. She eventually falls for their older brother, Max.
The Princess Fugitive: Ava does not make great choices. Eventually she is left with only one friend, her loyal bodyguard Hans. She has to learn how to be a decent human being.
The Princess Pact: Marie finds out she’s adopted and takes off into a rebel camp in the forest to find her real father, following the mysterious Rafe in her adventures.
The Princess Game: Celeste is Sleeping Beauty, but she isn’t really “sleeping.” She just has to make it look like her mind is. Meaning, she has to act like an idiot even though she is actually very smart. She attracts the shallow William along the way. For some reason, she falls in love with him.
The Princess Search: Evie...has a broken past. She lets this influence her relationships into adulthood, including her relationship with Crown Prince Frederic.
The overarching theme of the whole series is that there are Godmothers (who unsubtly look like angels) who serve an all-powerful High King (even less subtle…) and help people in the Four Kingdoms find True Love. The High King helps lands ruled by monarchs who marry for love. Kingdoms do not prosper when ruled by kings and queens in relationships of convenience or who got into marriage and realized they didn’t really know their spouse beforehand and consequently grew apart. That legitimately happens. A country is failing not because the king is bad at his job but because he’d grown apart from his wife. Yes, love in marriage is important, but there is still something to be said for a king who is good to his people. Realistically, he still treats his wife well though not being emotionally close to her. His people don’t deserve to suffer for that.
My favorite book in the series has got to be the one about Ava. And that’s mainly because Hans is awesome. Alyssa is good and smart and kind, but Max is selfish. Marie is kind of naive and trusting/untrusting/makes dumb choices, but I do love Rafe in this book...before disliking him in Celeste’s book. Celeste’s book is by far my least favorite. Celeste is clever and sharp and witty...and incredibly gorgeous. Which is what William falls for. He constantly talks about her beauty. I guess she needed someone super shallow to break her curse. Evie’s book is my second favorite, but that one has a side relationship that drives me up the wall. One character is obsessed with another and is “in love with her” though he’s never spoken with her and has only creepily watched her. And everyone in the story, including the girl with whom he is infatuated, acts like that’s normal and fine.
There are also two novellas, Happily Ever Afters and A Midwinter’s Wedding. Of the two, I much prefer the second. The first gets way too far into the love-at-first-sight realm, which I despise. True love requires people actually knowing each other. A Midwinter’s Wedding gives the characters time together to get to know one another and actually fall in love.
I liked this series. It moves very slowly, but the stories are good. They are light and fluffy, and sometimes that is exactly the kind of book you want. They are interconnected stories that don’t really meet up anywhere. They’re just telling the stories of different people in the Four Kingdoms. You could pick up any one of them and understand exactly what is going on and not miss anything. Still, it’s more fun to read them in order and connect everything.
Cellier’s books are cute stories, for the most part, where characters have to overcome something and fight for their love. The characters from each book don’t usually interact with the others, and they don’t have to band together to do anything. The books do exactly what they set out to do - creatively retell familiar fairytales where everyone gets with the right people and it ends happily ever after. If you couldn’t tell from the title of my blog, that constitutes a win in my book. They’re entertaining, enjoyable, and I’ve read each of them more than once.