Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben is not your typical princess. Instead of a proper, waif-thin, ladylike teen, Ben (short for Benevolence) is loud, big-boned, and opinionated. Her parents encourage her independence and are her best friends. Unfortunately, Ben’s life is forever changed when her mother and father are murdered while on a day trip to her grandfather’s grave. Ben is left an orphan and becomes the ward of her aunt, Queen Sophia. Too young to rule her country, Ben is to be properly groomed by Sophia before becoming the ruler of her country.

Queen Sophia is cold and seemingly cruel to Ben- forcing her to learn how to be a princess, how to dance, and worst of all, how to eat a “princess portion”. Ben, never stick-thin, turns to food for comfort during her grief and Queen Sophia is furious. She locks her in a tower and forbids her to leave unless Sophia allows her to leave the room. Even worse is the fact that Queen Sophia has been grooming her for suitable suitors!

However, everything changes when Ben discovers the magic. Ben is amazed by the discovery: a hidden magical room. There she learns spells from a mysterious spell book while the rest of castle sleeps. But Ben will have to learn more than magic if she’s to ever escape from aunt’s clutches and keep her country from being overrun by the very people that conspired in her parents’ murders.

This book is very different from Dairy Queen, but there are similarities. Ben is a strong female character and not your typical, waif-y princess. She grows and changes throughout the novel, becoming stronger and more mature but never loses herself. This is not the story of a damsel in a distress who needs to be saved from the dragon. This is the story of a damsel saving herself from the dragon!

A fun YA read, I would recommend this to fans of Ella Enchanted. Ben is an inspirational strong female character that I think many young girls will love. Murdock has skillfully woven the mythology of this new fairy tale kingdom into the fabric of the rest of the fairy tale world. There are cameos by famous fairy tale characters, which left me laughing out loud, but they never distract you from the story at hand. Fans of Catherine Gilbert Murdock and fairy tales will love Princess Ben!