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Once a Princess, by Sherwood Smith

Okay, first thing's first. If you're going to read Once a Princess [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], you'll probably want to pick up Twice a Prince [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] as well, since the end of book one leaves a fair amount unresolved.

There's a lot to like about Once a Princess. From the product description, "Warning: This title contains a kick-butt mother-daughter team, a wicked king, a witty pirate with an unfortunate taste for neon colors, inept resistance fighters, a dreamy prince who gallops earnestly hither and yon, and a kick-butt princess in waiting." I hear kick-butt princesses are all the rage these days :-)

Sasha and her mother Sun fled from the world of Sartorias-deles when Sasha's father was driven into hiding when Canardan Merindar usurped the throne. Sasha is living in LA when men from her former world come looking for her. She soon returns to Sartorias-deles and is swept up in the resistance as the ally? prisoner? of the sexy but fashion-challenged pirate Zathdar. Sun follows, looking for her daughter, and ends up in the hands of Merindar. Politics, intrigue, fighting, and romance all ensue.

Sherwood Smith's books blow my mind for the sheer world-building that goes into them. Check out the Sartorias-deles wiki. I'm awed by the amount of time and work Smith has spent developing this world and its history, the races and the individual characters, the magic and the cosmology. It's Tolkienesque in scale, but written in a more accessible voice.

This has advantages and disadvantages both. On the one hand, there were times I felt like I was missing some of the larger picture. On the other, Smith has created a world you can dive into as deeply as you choose, and stay there as long as you'd like. As I read, I kept coming back to how ambitious her work feels, each book adding another piece to her overall body of work to build this world. The story works wonderfully on its own, but it feels more ... solid than most. Smith has been developing this world since she was eight years old. It feels like you could go into any building, look behind any tree, and the author knows exactly what's there. (As opposed to some books, where you see the Hollywood-style facade if you stop to look at anything too closely.)

Back to this particular book, it's a fun read. Sasha and Zathdar were my favorites, with plenty of good banter and tension between them. Prince Jehan, son of Merindar, is a fun character as well, once you start to learn more about him. I didn't get as much of a sense as Sun, but she's as strong and determined as her daughter, just in a different arena. (Politics and intrigue as opposed to fighting and running about.) Actually, there's a nice range of strong female characters in this one.

Once a Princess comes out in paperback next week. (It's already available from Samhain as an e-book, though.) The paperback of book two follows in early May. So I'm not sure how many folks will have read these yet, but I know Smith has a good number of fans, so I'd love to hear what people think of her work in general.

Smith has a blog at sartorias which is also worth reading, with some of the most thoughtful posts and discussions you'll find on LJ.

Nightmare, by Steven Harper
Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy
Red Hood's Revenge



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 21st, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Darn Canadians
Totally read that as the Canadian Merindar...
Apr. 21st, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Darn Canadians
::Grin:: That would explain all of the hockey scenes...

Edited at 2009-04-21 02:52 pm (UTC)
Apr. 21st, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Hi, Jim. Thanks for the heads up on the Smith book. I wanted to mention that I admire how often you use your blog to plug other authors' work. I think it makes you consummately professional. Your blog is not just about you, and it's not just a marketing tool.

Maybe that's why I keep reading.
Apr. 21st, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jim. Consummately professional? Sweet! Go me!
Apr. 21st, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
I really love the Inda series, and was wondering if this was worth picking up. When I saw you were reading it, I hoped you would give us a review. Thanks for helping me make up my mind! If the e-book can be read on my kindle, I'll pick it up after work.

Thanks, Jim!
Apr. 21st, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Amazon doesn't have a Kindle edition listed, but I'm not familiar with the Kindle's capabilities, so I don't know whether it will be able to take the formats from Samhain.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
There was a Mobipocket format I bought through the link, which also works for the Kindle. I was able to pick up both books. Thank you for the heads up about Samhain. I love getting good books "early".

As an aside (Please excuse me if this is rude), is "The Mermaid's Madness" going to be available as an e-book?
Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
Not rude at all. Mermaid *should* be available as an e-book. DAW has been putting out their new releases in electronic format for a year or so now. Both of my last books came out as e-books, so I'm assuming that will continue. I hope so, at least....
Apr. 21st, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
There are a couple of authors I'm afraid to read, because I know they'll be good, but also because they're doing something similar to what I want to do (maybe not overall, maybe just certain elements that I recognize). I'm not entirely certain my delusions of authorhood are anything other than delusions, but at the same time, I'm not yet ready to be affected by their ideas. Smith's "Inda" series is something I actually desperately want to read, but don't want to risk it yet. (Sarah Monette is another. I actually bought hers, but haven't opened them yet! I'm not proud.)
Apr. 21st, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Makes perfect sense to me. I refused to read the Goblins webcomic until after I finished the Jig books for very similar reasons. I'm not going to touch the Fables series until after the princess books are done, either.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
I've had the same reaction to many things, then gone on to read them and realized we(-the-authors) had almost nothing in common. (And then I go read stuff that seems to be vastly different than mine, and it's what I would have written. Head-desk.)

Just a datapoint.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
When I was editing Heroes in Training, I had two authors who ended up writing stories with roughly the same setup and theme. I winced when I started reading the second, thinking I was going to have to reject a fairly big name author. But the stories themselves were completely different.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
See, yes! This is the danger. It's a minefield. :-)
Apr. 22nd, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Good to see your review--I came to the story as someone totally steeped in Sherwood's world and rather wondered how it would be as an entry point. Would I be right in gathering from your review that it was an enjoyable experience, with maybe just a couple of points where you wished you were more in the know?

(Or have you read others, and if so, which?)

Edited at 2009-04-22 01:36 am (UTC)
Apr. 22nd, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
I'd say that's pretty accurate. There were points where I could tell there was more to the story that I was missing, and the recap didn't fill in all of the blanks for me, but it didn't really interfere with the story as a whole.

I read most of A Stranger to Command a while back, but that was when I discovered I don't do well reading electronically, especially when life is going through another of its chaotic phases.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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