Crown Princess Academy: Book 1 Paperback – January 20, 2020
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The characters are... well, I fell in love with them from the first page. It didn't start anything like I expected, and the rest of the book did the same. I have to say, I was extremely pleasantly surprised with how it started (and, obviously, the rest of it). The female lead is kick-a**, stubborn, and confident. A breath of fresh air for sure! The male lead is intriguing and I very much enjoyed everything he did. Including toying with Penne, who had no idea that he knew her secret. The dynamic between these two is realistic, highly entertaining, and I found myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions (I'm normally a pretty stoic reader on the outside) from Penne's wit, actions, and awkward situations.
I adore the characters.
The world this takes place in is just so flipping amazing as well!! From the Malice, which is well thought-out and amazing in and of itself, to the Light, to discovering there are multiple other realms that I expect will enter into the rest of the series (especially after that ending, which I'll get to in a moment!)... just... holy cow.
Everything about this just blew me away. I knew it would be amazing after that first page, but good heavens, nothing could have prepared me for the detail, the perfect pacing... AJ does a praise-worthy job of sucking us into the world and having us walk through it with Penne, feeling the pain the Malice brings, yet our connection to it, her/our determination, feeling the... well, everything! The plot twists are to die for. Perfectly executed, almost painfully intriguing and exciting (because of the waiting)... ugh. This book is so fantastic it makes me feel like a poser as an author. AJ is the real deal!! I'm such a massive fan now. Can you tell? lol :)
My only negative feedback/warning. The ending felt like it wrapped up WAY too quickly. There was a time jump that I didn't follow for nearly a page, so ended up being highly confused. The ending felt very rushed and under explained, which was disappointing, especially considering how dramatic it all was. Still, it was amazing and I am absolutely DYING for the next book. This is one of my new favorite series for sure. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend.
READ IT, DO IT! IT'S SOOOO GOOD!
- An interesting set-up with a strong main character.
- A cool concept for the world building.
- A main plot you can support.
- Good descriptions. Easy to picture the scenes and characters.
- Needs an editor. A lot of stuff spell check isn't going to catch and after seeing the variety of errors I think someone who's going to really go over this with experience is needed. There were some typos like "relam" for realm and "been" instead of seen. ex. "I'd never been such a creature." Or once calling the character Laurel the wrong name(Lauren).
There were cases of words being used inaccurately or the wrong spelling being used "hold the reigns" instead of "hold the reins".
At one point blind-sighted is used instead of blindsided. It's possible the author doesn't actually know that is an error but I suppose it could be a typo. Same thing with straightening being written as straitening.
Some missing words ex. he should be before wiped. "... making no attempt to retract his fangs as wiped his mouth..." Or in some cases an extra word was added. "I hadn't let her to put any paint on my face."
Some very awkward sentences like, "A faint smile hinted at my lips." Smiles don't hint at lips. Pretty sure something like "My lips hinted at a faint smile." or something along that line.
"I find it no surprise if each of you conjures the icon of your Academy House" (should be I'll find or I'd find as she's speaking about anticipating a future event.)
One character says, "I apologize to interrupt..." Another good example of some of the awkward lines that tripped me up because I can't say 100% sure that it's "wrong" grammatically speaking but people don't tend to phrase things that way. They'd say "I apologize for interrupting." Same thing with characters peering up to a person instead of up at a person. "I had one week before I was about to have to trust him..." Pretty sure that should be something like "I had one week before I had to trust him."
So many times I sat down reading lines out loud to see if they came out less awkward and if anything it made it worse. I finally stopped noting specific examples because there were too many and I felt I had enough to provide examples for a review. Suffice to say that this could benefit from an editor.
- Characters needed more work. People like Olli, Jilly, the king, Zizi, Laurel, Sorin, Melinda, and Rylie who were important enough to the MC or the plot(or were around enough) should've been fleshed out better. While the prince and Penne(I had a horrible time not picturing pasta every time i read her name) were well-developed and had motives and personalities, the rest just seemed to get slapped with some surface traits and that was it.
For example. Laurel is brought onto the scene once. Yanked out of the crown and bam she's there. And then she promptly gets sent back and she talks a few times in Penne's head but that's it. What's the point? Why are we adding more weird conjurations if they're just going to get sidelined?
Rylie and Penne had a lot of potential to be allies/friends but we hardly get to see Rylie at all. Melinda makes for a pretty weak "mean girl rival" as everything is pretty surface level when it comes to what she does/says.
- This was the biggest issue for me. Plot issues. In no particular order here they are...
1. "I should have hated myself that one of the Candidates had already figured out that I was an imposter." (typo on impostor isn't mine)
She says this at 60% . . . and I'm like uh yeah. Because Penne goes into this with no plan, no preparation, and she frankly SUCKS at blending in. There is nothing about her that fits into this. She doesn't talk or act like any of the other Elite and quite frankly she makes zero attempt to blend in. I honestly was waiting to find out that the king knew the whole time that she was a fraud because it was the only explanation for her not being found out.
It required some major suspension of disbelief that a character who is trying to infiltrate an elite group makes no real effort to blend in. It's almost like she didn't care if she failed or not.
2. Fae/Human and DNA or whatever.
So the Fae can't have magical children anymore. So the Fae king goes and picks up a human chick to have a kid with. Okay, so now we have a half fae/half human prince(which it's ALWAYS a male. How does that work? What happens if the queen miscarries or has a girl? How do they ensure that it's always a boy that's born? This is never explained.). Now that kid grows up and in 19 years he does the same thing. We now have a 1/4 fae and 3/4 human prince.
See where I'm going for this? How the heck are we who knows how many generations into this mess without someone thinking huh, we call ourselves Fae but at this point our Fae blood is so diluted that we're really way more human than Fae. I thought it was weird the prince thought of himself as Fae and not human considering that even if he had been the first in this change he would've been 50/50.
Not to mention that uh they'd stop LOOKING like Fae after awhile. We are they still sporting the pointy ears and fangs? Shouldn't those genes be so watered down that chances of having them, especially in full pointyness would be slim?
- The Academy.
“Oh, right, Orientation Dinner. It can be a bit hard the first time.” Sighing, I clutched the edge of the bed. “How long have you worked here?” She bit her lip before replying. “Three years."
Wait . . . does Orientation Dinner happen for just the Queen's class or the whole Academy? Because it seems like it's specific to the queen's class. Everything about this story hints at that class being at a whole new level. And if that class only takes place every 19 years HOWWWW could Ollie say "oh yeah it's hard the first time" considering she's only been there 3 years?
And if it is universal how are they providing a cover up for this? It's mentioned that all these girls are oblivious to the fact that they'll be killed off one by one and how it happens. I can see keeping a lid on things if it's a once every 19 years thing but if this is happening every semester? You'd be killing off your entire nobility. At least all of the females.
Also for all of the hype about it being "the worst". . . like worse than being a brood mare in the human malice section of the world, it fails to shock. There's one class. ONE CLASS where they're taught to conjure something while touching a magic artifact. They're given a glass of the Malice which kills one of the 7? girls at the dinner. But we already knew that the whole class ends up dead so losing one at the start isn't shocking. And then after the one class they're given another drink.
Then after that they're allowed to wander in the gardens, sparring room, and music room. We see nothing with the garden thing, we see Rylie and Penne play/sing one song together in the music room, and then we have one underwhelming duel between Penne and Melinda.
Nothing exciting or impressive. And that's it for the next TWO WEEKS. Then they're given a score based on that one day of wandering through those rooms(where nothing horrible happens and music/gardening/dueling are all fairly benign and normal activities. And that's the final! They're done. They're given one more glass of Malice there at the end.
I was like wow... that was a lot of nothing.
I think in fact the whole ending scene/climax was shoddily done. I don't want to give spoilers so just going to say that after all that build up it was exactly what you expected with little emotion/detail/time. All the girls had to drink what apparently was a deadly dose of malice(which we knew about in advance) and Penne did exactly what she had planned without any struggle to and then some short lines about what's happening around her.
Like that's what I was waiting for? The climax/finale that took up like one page. There was no meat to it. It was just over before it even started. And it felt so unsatisfying.
A great idea that had a lot of potential but unfortunately needed some type of developmental editor to work out the story bugs and definitely needed a line editor to sort out the SPaG issues. Story needed too much work for me to continue with the series.