Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Last Princess or Beware of Fruit

I stole The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze from my fake boss at her birthday party last night. I read it in one sitting, so there is obviously a lot going right in the novel. But that's less interesting than talking about the niggling issues I have about it that sully the fact that it was obviously a unique approach to the post-apocalyptic trend and very well paced.

Catastrophic events led to every natural disaster you can think of battering the Earth. After the Seventeen Days, the British Royalty emerged from their bomb shelter beneath Buckingham Palace. All communication was down, so they sent a ship to contact someone, anyone, outside of England. That ship never returned. For all any of the English know, they are the last people in alive in the world. With the environment ravaged, and the sun dropping flaming bits of itself for further destruction, most of the country is starving. Badly enough that in some quarters cannibals roam what remains of forrests. There is civil unrest, and it's going to kill the king and queen -Eliza's parents.

I would say that my biggest issue starts with the fact that it is made very clear on page 13 that Eliza isn't supposed to be a helpless girl:

"After the Seventeen Days, without phones or computers or television, Mary [elder sister] and I amused ourselves play-fighting with the Royal Swords. The Master of Arms gave us lessons, teaching us to slash, stab, and parry. Mary and I would fence against each other, betting on the little luxuries that were still left over from before: a square of Cadbury chocolate, a piece of spearmint gum. Later, when the government food rations were gone, we would take spears and throwing knives to the woods around Balmoral, hunting the snakes and pigeons and few other creatures that remained. I was surprised to find that I had quite good aim, unlike Mary, who never could get the hang of throwing a knife."

Despite her obvious natural skills that were trained over the course of several years with, presumably, one of the best teachers one would find in England, Eliza, at practically every turn, gets saved by the boy. This is not to say that she doesn't fight, or even have modest success at hand-to-hand combat, but that 9 out of 10 times, when she's in dire straights, the love interest, Wesley, suddenly appears to get her out of the situation.

My second issue gets spoilery. So, massive civil unrest leads to a coup. Eliza barely escapes alive, her parents are dead, her brother and sister have been captured but are inexplicably being kept alive. For months. The leader of the insurection has made no secret of his intention to crown himself king. Why keep two heirs around to threaten your legitimacy? Futhermore, and more importantly, as we near the end, the populace, needing only an inspirational heroine they obviously find in Eliza, rise up against the over-the-top evil of the insurection. They conquer Newcastle by surprise and suffer little to no loss despite their inferior numbers, training, and weaponry. Getting to this fighting back stage happens all to quickly and cleanly, and unlike real war, no one close to Eliza is ever seriously wounded, let alone killed. Except her poor expendable parents whose deaths more or less start everything off.

Also, horses seem to travel preternaturally fast in this book. I can't say for certain as time passage was vague, but as Eliza flees London on her stolen warhorse she sees a sign saying "Scotland 380 miles" (p 189). Two short chapters, a nap, and a couple of dispatched cannibals later, she's made it to Balmoral Castle, which, according to Google Maps is 510 miles away from the Tower of London. I had to look it up, but a good day's travel on horseback is about 30 miles. No big.

Few teens are going to care about the speed a horse travels, or that battle goes too easily, nor that there is no depth or dimention given to the villians. Only some will care that the princess gets saved. A LOT. None of these things will keep me from recommending the book. Neither does it stop the obnoxious "BUTs" that ricochet around my brain.