by Gareth Nix
how obtained: another birthday present 🙂
Princesss Anya has spent the last few years reading in the library and keeping out the way of her step-step dad, an evil sourcerer who rules the kingdom while her stepmom is away researching in the woods or something. Her step mum used to be married to her dad who was the king… and the step parents are ruling until her older sister can. It might sound a bit confusing, but in a world where there is a friendly moat monster, a librarian who turns into an owl when distressed, and royal dogs who are super smart and advice the royalty (and probably really should be ruling themselves), it all seems normal to Anya. She just wants to get on with her reading.
But then her step dad turns one of her sister’s suitors into a prince, and her sister doesn’t want to do the icky task of kissing him to turn him back. This sets Anya off on a quest to get more magic lip balm so she can do it. And one quest turns into many as Anya finds more tranmogrifated people, and that there is more wrong with her kingdom than she wanted to acknowledge. And even worse- she can’t hide behind the excuse that she is the younger sister and her older sister should rule and sort things out. It is up to her.
This fun, creative story is probably aimed at older children or young teens, but I really enjoyed it. I love the concept of the wise royal dogs who kept the true history, and how often I was surprised by characters who were different from the usual fantasy stereotypes. For example, there were multiple times where a role traditionally played by a man turned out to be a woman; the wizard, the knights etc. I felt a slight thrilled shock each time it happened, particularly with the knights, after they were introduced as Sir so and so- I was surprised, as a feminist a little dismayed that I should be surprised, but also really glad that this was written in this way.
Overall, a very enjoyable, creative read.