Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: The Royal Pains Series by Roberta Olsen Major

This intriguing YA series was one of my recent Fictionwise finds. There are eight short nevels set in the same imaginary universe; occasionally, places or personalities from a previous story find their way into one of the sequels, but the eight stories pretty much stand alone. These are billed as 'fairy tales with attitude' and for the most part, this is true. The women, most of whom are princesses, have snark and attitude. Olsen writes this sort of character well. The off-note for me was that the series seems to alternate between kick-ass princess stories and somewhat gloomy quest epics, the latter of which are less fun and less successfully pulled off. The stories are:

  • Book 1: The Prince in the Flower Bed. An entertaining start to a promising series. This is one that made a lot more sense after I had read the other ones and had a better sense of the mythology (and geography) of the world this series is set within.
  • Book 2: The Seventh Dwarf. Dwarves play a huge role in the underlying mythos that runs this world. Also, many characters from this story reappear elsewhere, so don't miss this one if you plan to read any of the others. As for the story itself, it was a better one, so go for it!
  • Book 3: The Good Knight Kiss. A somewhat frothy love story with a spunky princess and several archetypal foils to set her up against. Not much else going on, though. This one was about as straight-forward as they come.
  • Book 4: The Bottle of Djinn. A gloomy 'quest epic' involving the daughter of a royal concubine. She gets a good ending, as most princesses do. But not before she suffers and suffers and suffers some more...
  • Book 5: The Ice Cream Crone. I liked the men in this one. The princess, I could take or leave. Good use of setting, though, and an interesting mood that offered something different from the other stories.
  • Book 6: The Knave of Diamonds. I liked this one a lot. The girl had moxie, the prince wasn't boring, and I found myself rooting much harder than I ought to be for twue wuv to prevail...
  • Book 7: The 24-Karat King. Another 'gloomy quest epic' story, and one with an abrupt, inconclusive ending to boot. Nice as it was to have some closure on bit player from a previous story, this was not my favourite.
  • Book 8: The Bad Heir Day. This was a great conclusion (for now?) to the series. A lot is revealed about the central mythos this little universe runs on, and it brings several plot arcs from previous volumes together in an intriguing way. It's definitely more fun if you;ve read all the other ones, though...
Overall, I found the series an entertaining read and liked the way the different stories interconnected. I do feel there was some wandering, though. Most of the stories were playful and fun, but a few were really harsh and gloomy, and I don't think they fit together as well with the other ones. Book 4, Book 5 and Book 7 could easily be done without.

I would say they are a good read if you like this kind of story, and if you can pick up the whole series at a good price, go for it. I bought book 1 only at first, then when I had a chance to 'complete the series' in a Fictionwise sale, I did so. I would not have paid full price for them, though.

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