The Garden Princess

by Kristin Kladstrup
First sentence: “Princess Adela laced her fingers under a clump of creeping Charlie and pulled, enjoying the satisfying crackle of roots ripping free of soil.”
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Content: Aside from your usual witches being Bad and princesses not wanting to be princesses and talk of Marriage for a 16-year-old, there’s not much here. It’d happily belong in the middle grade (3-5) section of the bookstore.
Review copy sent to me by the publisher for the Cybils

Adela, like many princesses in books like these, does not like being a princess. She would much rather muck around in the garden, creating landscapes, finding new plants. So, when the handsome gardener (whom she prefers hanging out with) gets invited to a garden party thrown by Lady Hortensia, Adela finagles her way along, mostly so she can see Hortenisa’s famed gardens. However, when she gets there, she finds that the gardens aren’t, well, normal. And Hortensia’s a witch, something Adela thought didn’t exist. It turns out that Hortensia’s plants are all actually beautiful girls. And Adela’s determined to set them all free.

So far, so good. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill, but nothing horrible. I actually kind of like Adela, and it’s not very often you get a princess obsessed with gardening. But, once at the garden, it went south for me. It got very lecture-y about Outer Beauty (which is bad!) and Inner Strength (which is good!), but I could deal with that. No, my problem came with the climax. See, Adela, for all her Heroism, doesn’t actually Solve the Problem. Nope, that goes to the guy/love interest in the story. And that bothered me. I wanted Adela to be Strong Enough and Smart Enough to beat the evil witch, but it turned out that she was only Good Enough to inspire the guy into figuring things out.


But other than that, it was a perfectly fine little fantasy.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)

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