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The Ugly Princess
by: Elizabeth K. Burton
Review by: Jeanine Berry

The Ugly Princess is a splendid fantasy novel that breaks the rules and has a grand time doing it.

The adventure begins when His Gracious Majesty, Edrick Rediman, the king of Abernal, chokes to death at his wedding banquet. His Royal Champion, Sir Christopher Evergild, is sent to fetch the heir to the throne - a princess born from the king's first marriage who has been raised in a secluded keep far from the capital city.

But things quickly begin to diverge from the normal course of events in a fantasy. The knight in shining armor sent to fetch the princess is an out-of-date anachronism whose armor itches. And the princess herself is rumored to be so repulsive no one can stand to look at her. Even though she lives in a household of ugly trolls, she still must hide her face behind thick veils.

Burton has concocted a fascinating brew of delightful characters and a plot that is constantly twisting. Be prepared for more than one surprise! No one is quite who they seem to be in this enchanting fantasy that combines the excitement of high adventure with the romance of a forbidden love.

Politics in the kingdom of Abernal are as complex and fascinating as anything ever concocted by Machiavelli, but have no fear. Bartrim Ruford, the Seneschal of House Rediman, serves as a witty narrator and guide to the kingdom. He will keep you up-to-date on all the latest court gossip and explain the ins and outs of the political maneuvering. For a kingdom supposedly at peace, Abernal has a heap of trouble brewing. King Edrick has barely stopped breathing before the nobles are plotting how to control the throne. Meanwhile, King Benifaz, a neighboring king who is the father of the newly widowed bride, decides to engineer his own takeover and annex Abernal to his kingdom.

Bartrim tries to keep things running smoothly at home while Chris is fetching the princess, but King Benifaz, who makes a wonderfully wicked scoundrel, soon throws his plans into turmoil. To rid himself of Bartrim, Benifaz falsely accuses him of treason.

Thrown into a dungeon to await execution, Bartrim seems doomed, but help comes from an unlikely source when a highwayman and alleged assassin known as Dagger Jack Tarragent rescues him. Together they team up to save Bartrim's wife, Danella, who is also in danger.

Unaware of the intrigues going on at court, Chris rides to the keep. His daunting task is to get the ugly princess safely back to her capital so she can take the throne, but his greatest challenge turns out to be discovering what kind of woman is hidden beneath Jahmelle's shimmering veils. Jahmelle's face is so terrible that she keeps it concealed at all times, but her voice is soft and alluring and her personality fascinates him. Yet even as he falls in love, unexpected revelations make him wonder if he can trust her-or if she is a practitioner of the black arts.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, for the many twists are one of the delights of the book. Don't even bother to guess what's going to happen next, because you'll probably be wrong. Jahmelle may hide behind her veils, but Chris has his secrets, too. To find happiness, they must somehow find the courage to reveal themselves to each other.

The Ugly Princess is an entertaining fantasy filled with remarkable characters who will linger in your memory. A visit to the kingdom of Abernal is definitely worthwhile. It is scheduled for publication by Double Dragon Publishing (www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/) as an e-book in January and from Zumaya Publications (www.zumayapublications.com) as a trade paperback in March.

I rate The Ugly Princess at four stars.

Berry is a fantasy writer and the author of Dayspring Dawning, a 2003 Eppie finalist. You can visit her web site at http://clik.to/Jeanineberry.


Rating Scale:
* * * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* * = Slow, difficult to read, could have been improved.
* = Imminently forgettable.


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