A few weeks ago, while searching for retellings, I came across the work of Melanie Cellier for the first time. I was astounded by her vast catalogue of reimaginings, for both very popular and some more obscure fairy tales.
The book I decided to pick up first was The Secret Princess, which is a retelling of The Goose Girl. It is also the first book in Cellier’s Return to the Four Kingdoms series.
I was so excited to begin my journey with this author.
While I enjoyed it, I could tell that I was missing something. There were certain events alluded to in that story more than once that left me wondering, what do other people know that I don’t know?
Thanks to a comment from one of my book friends, I discovered that what I was missing was an entire other series that predated that book. I mean I had an idea that The Secret Princess was the start of a companion series, but I guess I just didn’t think about it that much.
Once the original series, The Four Kingdoms, was recommended to me, I decided I should go back and begin at the actual beginning. Let’s do it right.
I’m glad I did. I had so much fun with this one. It has really reinvigorated my love for fairy tale retellings.
This story is actually a reimagining of The Princess and the Pea and follows a mild-mannered, woodcutter’s daughter, Alyssa. As our story begins, Alyssa, gets lost at night in a storm while traveling and she’s separated from her companions.
In search of shelter, she stumbles upon the Winter Castle, the off-season home of the royal family. Currently in residence, the King, Queen and their children, Prince Max and two twin Princesses, as well as their various servants.
After a bit of a mistaken identity moment, Alyssa is granted a room for the night and subsequently gets caught up in the dramatics of the royal family. They seem to take to her right away, even offering her the position of Princess Companion for the unruly twins.
Of course she accepts, it’s a huge jump in status for a woodcutter’s daughter, and Alyssa truly enjoys her time with the royal family, particularly her time with Prince Max.
This story follows Alyssa’s time in their employ, as she grows closer with the royal family and fights to save the kingdom from malicious outside forces.
This was such a delight to read. I listened to the audiobook and the narration was fabulous. Esther Wane’s voice work brought this story to life for me. I found it completely engaging from the very start.
I loved Alyssa as a character. She was so down-to-earth and pure of heart. Her circumstances got a little intense towards the end and I was actually biting my nails in anticipation. I didn’t want anything awful to happen to her.
I think Cellier did a great job creating such likable characters over the course of this story. It’s not that long, but I did find myself becoming quite attached to many of them. Additionally, the pace was really well done, with just enough at stake to keep it compelling throughout.
This also provided an excellent base set-up for the greater Four Kingdoms world. I am excited to continue on with this series. The next book follows a character that we met in this novel. She’s not someone I cared for, so I am interested to see if Cellier can get me on her side in the next book.
I am so happy to have discovered this series and to have now picked it up in the proper place.
I think these books are going to be a great way to break up my many other darker reads. Every once in while you just need something light and fun. These books definitely check those boxes.