Title: Princess of Tyrone
Author: Katie Hamstead
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Apolline is happy hunting magical creatures on her pirate infested outer-perimeter planet. She is a fantastic shot, and doesn’t flinch at the blood and guts of her kills. Never once did she consider she could be the missing Princess of Tyrone.
All her life, she has heard the story of the Princess, cursed to sleep for eternity, unless her betrothed, the Prince of Oran, gave her true love’s kiss. Although Apolline knows she is betrothed, she thinks her fairy guardians arranged it out of ignorance of human ways. The thought she could be a princess is inconceivable.
Then Allard appears. Handsome, charming—but he’s not hers to have. He’s betrothed, too. Her guardians warn her against her newfound friendship, but she and Allard meet in secret anyway. Despite her rough exterior, he sees beyond her gun-slinging bravado and their love blossoms.
But the deadline for the sleeping curse is approaching. If Apolline falls in love with the wrong person, she could end up sleeping forever.
A quirky, adventurous retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a less than princess-ly princess!
My initial thought after reading the book’s synopsis was, “A fairytale retelling in a space opera setting? SIGN THIS GIRL UP!” I could not imagine a story that was more perfect. What could be more awesome than Sleeping Beauty hunting down magical creatures on a planet far, far away, am I right? Although I unfortunately did not love Princess of Tyrone as much as I expected to, I still generally enjoyed reading the story.
Apolline was quite the character. To an extent, her personality could be paralleled to the likes of Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games) and June Iparis (from Legend). Fiercely independent, admirably headstrong, brave to the point of occasional recklessness, quick to jump into action, and skilled in handling tons of weaponry – Apolline was a wild firecracker of a leading heroine. Her curious nature was a trait I could easily relate to, and her adrenaline-spiked adventure seeking spirit was fun to witness. However, I did not like how as the story progressed, she easily fell putty in the presence of ridiculously attractive males. I mean, I faintly remember a scene where she met one of her love interest’s friends and thought to herself, “Wow, he was gorgeous. I’d be fine with marrying him.” I am not at all suggesting that strong, independent women are forbidden from finding men physically attractive, but for me, it was sort of unsettling how she was entertaining the thought of marrying someone she literally just met (and based on appearance no less!) even though she currently had feelings for someone else. (Apolline, honey, let’s keep our thirst levels to a minimum, yes?)
Additionally, it bothered me to no end that Apolline’s appeal and overall attractiveness hinged on the notion that she was not like all the other girls. Yes, the internalized misogyny was evidently strong in this one, my friends. In one scene, Apolline expressed that she “had no desire to look pretty” because “girls who made themselves look pretty usually were whores”. Furthermore, in the small town where Apolline lived, no other respectable female character was introduced or mentioned (excluding the fairies that raised her, that is). Was I supposed to believe that she was the only decent teenage girl in the vicinity? Um.
Also, at one point in the book, Prince Allard (said love interest) called the rest of the female population superficial and stupid – and I quote:
“Most women in the central planets are quiet and full, rarely showing any sort of conviction on any topic except their hair.”
WHAT. Can you believe the audacity of this asshat? And let’s not forget how special Apolline was because she excelled in hiding her lust for the prince:
Women always fell at his feet – he’s the prince after all – but not Apolline.
I can’t even??? And if I’m being completely honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – that is, the myriad of things I hated about Prince Allard both as a love interest and as a character in general. I found nothing appealing about him at all, and yes, I am aware that this was most likely due to my own biases. Seriously, though, Prince Allard was an absolute douche baguette with no concept of personal boundaries and exhibited no significant character development throughout the entire bloody novel. When faced with Apolline’s dismissive responses in response to his embarrassingly blatant flirting, he stalked her (i.e. demanding one of his royal subjects to gather as much information on Apolline including the days when she’d visit the town) and continued to force her to be in his company. Whenever she expressed that she was not interested, he kept coming back. What a brilliant, romantic way to win someone over, yes? In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm in my previous sentence: Stalking, disregarding a person’s privacy and personal space, and completely dismissing any forms of “no” from a person should not be romanticized or admired in any way!
Because of the problematic setup that eventually led to Apolline and Prince Allard falling in love with each other, I could not enjoy the romance aspect of the story at all. In my eyes, their relationship was toxic and potentially harmful, especially given the kind of message it sends to readers. It was such a letdown on my part that I was unable to support the love story in Princess of Tyrone, considering how fundamentally significant romance is in fairytales.
However, despite the frustratingly awful love story and heaps of sexism in Princess of Tyrone, I somehow miraculously liked a lot of the other elements. My favorite aspect of this book was its incredible, imaginative world-building: a universe where technology is magically enhanced, where space pirates exist and roam the cosmos, where fairy magic is strengthened by human emotions like love, hope and faith, and where science mixes with fantasy in the most fascinating of ways. The world in Princess of Tyrone was utterly amazing and held so much promise! It was the perfect setting for thrilling adventures, and for the most part, I did really like the plot sans romance. The twists in the original fairytale of Sleeping Beauty as well as the minor references to other fairytales (e.g. Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel) that were sprinkled throughout the story were particularly brilliant and inventive.
Somewhat surprisingly, I really adored the supporting characters, including the antagonist of the story. The back stories of Queen Cyntheria and Ashlan were the ones I found to be most interesting, but generally, the smooth manner in which the backgrounds and narratives of the supporting roles complemented each other, forming a mishmash of creative fairytale retellings, was remarkable. I did feel a tinge of awe once I finished reading. I just wish the romance in Princess of Tyrone could be completely removed from the narrative because the story would have been a better read without it.
Disclosure: I received a digital copy of Princess of Tyrone (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publishers!
Excerpt from the book:
“Father.” Allard motioned to the small man with round glasses. “This is Professor Pelt. He teaches astronomy at the university.”
Brencis bowed his head. “It’s a pleasure. In fact, I read a journal by you recently, discussing your theories regarding other galaxies in the cosmos. You believe ours is tiny compared to most.”
The professor straightened, his eyes twinkling. “Yes. The fairies in particular have helped me lead to this conclusion, as we all know their home planet, Zethuran, is from another galaxy. They claim our galaxy if only a fraction of the size of theirs, so I decided to look out and try to measure the diameter of other galaxies nearby.”
“And what have you found?”
“We are indeed quite small. The fairies’ galaxy, the closest to us, would take more than a hundred years to cross its diameter, whereas our galaxy, in our fastest ships, only takes a month.”
“It is. While I was doing this, I also noticed the light emitting from our galaxy, although so minuscule in size, is considerably brighter. I addressed this with some fairies with whom I am in contact, and they explained that it is the abundance of magic within the galaxy.”
Allard glanced around. He’d written a paper on how magic affected the brightness of stars within the galaxy, but didn’t really feel much like discussing it. Cytheria caught his attention and smiled. The perfect invitation. He excused himself and hurried over.
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