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While I sort of knew this was a "young adult" book, I hadn't realised just how "young" the "adults" need to be to enjoy this. I would say this was more aimed at the10/11 year old girl, whereas "Young adult" says 16+ to me. So that out of the way, I have to say that I really, really didn't warm to Ben. She spends most of the book a self-centred, spoilt, gluttonous, greedy, self-centred (did I say that already - cos she really, really is!) prima donna. That she is a little fatty goes almost without saying, and nothing wrong with not being a classic sylph-like princess, but she is totally obsessed with food; she stuffs it down, spilling it over her clothes, over her face, in her hair, and yes, she turns to food when her world is turned upside down, but even when she's totally removed from her comfort zone, and filled with resolve to escape and save her country, she STILL obsesses about it, and when she returns home, after some serious adventuring, what's the first thing she does? Asks for food and shovels it down until she feels sick... I thought the overeating / food obsessing overdone, and consequently found Ben seriously unsympathetic.
Which is a shame, because in all other ways this is a classic little fairy tale, engagingly read by its author, complete with hard-hearted aunt (standing in for the wicked step mother), dragon, magic, princes, princesses, skulduggery, adventure, redemption etc etc etc - so if you think you can take the gluttonous, self-absorbed heroine who does, right towards the end, come through as a good 'un, then this is otherwise not bad, but most definitely not one for not-so-young-adults who usually enjoy young-adult books.
I loved it
the author is clever and witty and warm
she must have enjoyed her story too
she makes a terrific narrator
A good story of a royal child grwoing into adulthood and learning from her mistakes.