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Disappointing - I expected more.
on June 10, 2010
Re-read in May, 2010
Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine feels like a front: a way to teach kids "history", presented in the point-of-view of one of their own. Yes, I realize that's the whole point of the Royal Diaries books, but I expected a little more creativity presented in the story than what I received. It shouldn't FEEL like a front when you read it. I perceived this even as a kid, which is probably why I forgot all about Eleanor until I stumbled across it on goodreads.com and was reminded of its existence.
Gregory is very careful to remain true to both the diary format and the ADD mindset of a fourteen-year-old girl. As a girl, I read all of the Royal Diaries books, and I honestly don't recall any of them being quite this scatter-brained. It made it hard for me as a reader to remain engaged with the story. I remember what it was like to be a fourteen-year-old; I KNOW how hard it is to stay focused. But really, Gregory, for the sake of the story KEEP IT TOGETHER.
I should have gleaned more of Eleanor's personality than I did, especially considering that it's written in her point-of-view. Eleanor seems to have been deeply religious, or at the very least, unusually pious for a young teen. Other than that, I learned nothing particularly unique about her as a person. She had few wants and worries aside from her father's safety, and was never truly rebellious - sneaking out of the castle from time to time hardly counts as rebellious behavior in my book, as I would've done the same and more. She had opinions and observations about the world around her, but they don't make for a decent read. As a result, I perceived Eleanor to be a generally uninteresting person.
This is odd, considering that in the historical note at the end of the book, it is stated "That she was headstrong and spoiled is undisputed." (p. 161) I didn't get that impression at all. In fact, both the epilogue and the historical note were more entertaining than the actual story. I learned more about Eleanor than I would have otherwise, and lo and behold, she's a fairly interesting historical character. Who would've thunk it? The only time Eleanor displays originality in her actions and thoughts is her rather unorthodox way of meeting her husband-to-be, Louis VII: she marches down to where the prince is camped, only to decide that she'd rather jump in the river instead. One guess on who pulls her out of the river.
This is the only memorable part of the story, folks. Here's the page numbers (p. 124-126) so you can jump right to it.
One could make the argument that "Oh, it's meant for kids and young teens, so it doesn't have to be quite so detailed as other historical fiction novels." To that I say, "Yes it does." I use Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, another Royal Diaries book, as an example. It remains true to the diary format, and yet manages to be historically accurate AND engages the reader throughout the duration of the story.
It's also a kid's book. Imagine that.
I realize that Marie Antoinette and Eleanor are different people from very different eras. As a result, there's more information to go off of on Marie Antoinette than there is on Eleanor, simply because of the different times they lived in. I get all that, really, I do... but I expected more from Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine.