In most versions of The Frog Prince, the princess is proud, spoiled, and condescending. The frog recovers a lost ball for her, and in return asks to be taken to her house, eat from her plate, and sleep on her bed. In the version I listened to last year, she got disgusted and threw him against a wall, after which he transformed into a prince. In other versions she tolerates him until he transforms, and then, of course, they fall in love and live happily ever after.
In this retelling, The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson, set in 15th century Germany, 18-year-old Margaretha is the oldest daughter of a duke. She isn’t spoiled, but she tends to talk a lot, especially when she’s nervous. A number of suitors have come and left her home, but none seemed right to her. Currently Lord Claybrook has been visiting, and she thinks he wears weird hats and talks about things she’s not interested in, but she’s trying to get to know him better and give him the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile a severely injured young man has been found and taken to the healer. He only speaks English, and Margaret can understand and converse in it well enough, so she serves as translator for him. When he carries on about needing to speak to the duke, but can’t say why or reveal who he is, she thinks his ravings are coming from his injury. When he finally convinces her to do a bit of eavesdropping for him, she finds that he’s right about the danger her family and town are in. But her father and brother are away, and together she and the stranger escape to find and warn them.
Since these are realistic stories, I wondered how the author was going to portray the frog prince himself without any magic changing of form. That ended up being humorous, but I won’t spill the secret here.
In many ways, this is a fairly typical fairly tale romance, except that Margaretha is pluckier than many heroines in this genre, even to the point of bashing guards in the head with a candlestick in her escape, and the addition of an orphan boy rescued along the way. I’ve enjoyed many of Melanie’s books in the past, and this was a nice, clean read, but it just seemed – almost a little cliche for me. I saw on Amazon that it was listed as a teen/young adult novel, which I hadn’t realized before, and that may be one reason the writing just seemed a little “younger” to me than usual. I didn’t get that vibe from the others, though.
I hadn’t realized at first that some of the characters had appeared in previous stories. It had been a while since I had read them, but as I looked at descriptions of them at the end of the book, they came back to me.
One aspect I especially liked was Margaretha’s learning the difference between panic praying and actively trusting while praying.
All in all, not an unpleasant read, but not one that blew me away, either.
Genre: Christian fiction
Potential objectionable elements: None
My rating: 7 out of 10
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)