Welcome to Refracted Light’s
blog tour stop!
Can I start this review with some well-deserved cover love?
Of course I can. It’s my review after all. <wink>
Typically I don’t make it a habit to talk about covers in reviews, but I love this cover. I love, heart and adore it. In fact, despite the intriguing blurb this cover is paired with, I must admit, the cover was initially the major draw. It’s whimsical, elegant with a hint of darkness and grit — definitely fitting. And the title font? Well, I’ve a weakness for fonts such as that.
Hi there, gorgeous. <blows kiss at font>
ANYWAY, I had to read it. But, as it’s surely an experience we’ve both shared, Dear Reader, I’ve been duped before by a beautiful cover with a bewitching font — gorgeous on the outside, not-so-gorgeous on the inside. YouknowwhatI’mtalkingabout. Happily, The Princess in the Opal Mask’s wonderfulness extends well beyond just cover deep. With tones that pay homage to the legend of The Man in the Iron Mask and The Prince and the Pauper, with hints of fairytale and fantasy, The Princess in the Opal Mask is incredibly enchanting.
Princess Wilha of Galandria has worn a mask for as long as she can remember. Her subjects call her The Masked Princess — worshiping her and reviling her in equal measure. Some say those who look upon her face will be cursed or even die. Others think she has the power to work miracles.
Neither rumor is true.
Wilha wields no real power over her life, in fact, she’s little better than a slave to duty and the whims of others. Her mask imprisons her, and though unhappy and full of questions, she makes no effort to try and change her circumstances. She’s quiet, biddable, somewhat naive, with no real accomplishments to speak of. Her father, his advisers and her servants dictate the ins and outs of her days; she has no say in her future. With tensions rising between Galandria and their neighbor to the north, Kyrenica, her father has brokered a peace treaty promising her hand in marriage to the Crown Prince Stefan as incentive. But when the royal family is attacked by a group of supposed Kyrenicans, things that were once hidden can no longer remain that way. Suddenly, Wilha is confronted with truths about herself, her family and her kingdom, and finds herself faced with a choice that could change everything.
Meanwhile, in the tiny little village of Tulan in the (not so) grand Ogden Manor, an orphan by the name of Elara lives with the (not so) magnanimous Mister & Mistress Ogden who (not so) graciously deigned to take her in all those years ago. Treated little better than a servant by the Ogdens, Elara has grown up to be hard, a bit flinty, strong-willed, intelligent, skilled in deception and more than a little adept at manipulation… and also, just a little bitter. Her future, a bit tenuous now that she’s reaching adulthood, becomes even more uncertain when she comes into the possession of a book purported to have been her mother’s. When the man who gave it to her is jailed by the king’s men, she’s determined to track him down to find out more of what he knows. As with Wilha, what Elara discovers turns her entire world upside down, and leads her to a fateful choice as well.
I don’t want to give away much more than that, although, you can probably guess the gist of what happens next easily enough. But even going into it with theories, this book was no less enjoyable for it. Lundquist’s writing style… I just love it. Loads of people can write enjoyable books, but once in awhile I come across an author who’s style and voice just “click” with me — someone who uses words to not just tell a story, but carefully crafts them into something that is truly art. It’s not just what’s conveyed, it’s all about the how. And Jenny Lundquist does that.
But while I loved the “how,” I also loved the “what” — this story of two vastly different girls from vastly different worlds. I will say that of the two girls, each who took turns narrating their respective stories, I connected with Elara the most. Though I did like her, Wilha’s passivity at the beginning was a bit of a turn off, while Elara who found herself in similarly unyielding circumstances fought them, was looking for escape, a way to subvert her impossible situation. That said, both girls undergo a lot of character growth throughout the book and both end it remarkably changed. This book does have some slight romantic elements, yes. But essentially The Princess in the Opal Mask is about two girls struggling with their respective identities, fighting to overcome their pasts, and looking to take charge of their futures. It’s fantastic.
Also fantastic? The world. The world building, while perhaps not as deep as some, had a great sense of history and completeness. There’s a sense of so much more being just beyond the edges of what Lunquist has aready shown us, and I love that. Also, there’s a map in the front of the book. Instant points, right there. Maps. I love them. So much. Also, I love the politics! I love books with palace politics, conspiracies, betrayals, espionage, the subtle (and not-so-subtle) bids for power — the very real danger that lurks inside the palace, not just outside it. And The Princess in the Opal Mask has this aplenty.
Other odds and ends. The secondary characters are fantastic, and I can’t wait to know some of them better in the next book. Prince Stefan is definitely worth a mention, but I won’t sway you either way with my thoughts on His Illustriousness, the Crown Prince. <wink> Secret passages are always fun; love a good secret passage. The one thing I did wish there was more of in this book was more relationship development between Wilha and Elara, but I understand why it was the way it was. I hope that it might be more of a focus as the story continues. We shall see….
Overall, The Princess in the Opal Mask is an enchanting and utterly charming of tale of kingdoms, castles, plots, princes, and two girls’ separate journeys toward identity and self-discovery.
Jenny is giving away 15 copies of THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK!
Enter to win with the Rafflecopter below.