Title: The Princess and the Hound
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Reading Level: 12 and up
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) –
He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.
She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.
Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal your heart, but will they fall in love?
I picked this book up at a local independent bookstore and I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it there. It looked interesting – also the synopsis proclaimed it as a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” which is one of my favorite fairy tales.
It was a little jarring to find that this book is not told from the Princess’ point of view, despite having her name in the title and a princess on the cover. Now, it doesn’t always happen, but I figure that the character featured in the title would make an appearance in the first five chapters or so. Not this time – this book is told from Prince George’s point of view. The main plot of this story is that George was born with the forbidden animal magic, which just means that he can talk to animals in their own language (think Eliza from “The Wild Thornberrys”). Having this power is akin to being a leper in this land, so the prince has been forced to keep this ability of his a secret his entire life. His mother had the animal magic and she was “sent away” when George was a young boy (much the way your favorite pet dog was “sent away” while you were at school one day).
George eventually meets Princess Beatrice and becomes engaged to her as a matter of political advantage. Beatrice does not go anywhere without her hound, Marit, and the girl has an odd relationship with Marit which reveals itself throughout the story (and had the synopsis not spoiled the plot, I would have been more surprised by that development).
I enjoyed this book a lot – until the story ended about fifteen chapters early. I thought the main plot had resolved itself, but then was treated to another chunk of story about the political ins and outs of running this fairy tale country where animal magic people are discriminated against. The developments themselves don’t bother me. What bothered me is that this story. Takes. So. Long. To. End. I hoped that most of that was appendices or some other thing like that – nope, there was another ninety pages to slog through before the story reached its final conclusion. And I was annoyed. Not as much as when I read Uglies (because at least this conclusion made some sense), but enough. There are two more books after this one and I may pick them up, but I’m not in any hurry to do so.