In the world of Princess of Beasts by Joanna White, all is not well. Sahri is a princess controlled by her family so that her gift of talking to animals belongs to them alone. Her bodyguard, Jekre, perhaps the only person she truly trusts, is controlled by her family also. His Rune of Obedience requires him to protect her and obey her at all costs, and it is distinctly possible he hates her for it. When further disaster strikes the kingdom and Sahri is the only one who can help, how far will she go to make things right?
1. Thoughts on the plot
Generally speaking, this plot follows a fairly standard set of expectations. You have your princess, her bodyguard, and a disaster that only they can fix. This is a familiar—and for good reason—fantasy plot that has wowed people for years, and will likely to do so for years to come. It is a quest novel, following a pair as they discover who they are and what really matters. In this instance, I was not disappointed even a little bit.
The plot moves quickly enough that you are not left wondering when things are going to happen. There is enough intrigue to provide questions about how things are going to turn out. And there is most certainly enough drama to keep you enthralled as you follow the main characters on their quest. I quite liked the plot, from beginning to end and have no complaints. Even when the ending tugged at the heartstrings. A lot.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Sahri is a wonderful main character to follow. She does not have any serious weapons skills. She does not seem to care about politics. She is simply smart, capable, and kind, and I honestly wish there were most characters like her. She has enough questions about her place and roll in the world to make her development intriguing to follow. Her family and the rules placed on her by them are the weight that could potentially ruin everything; Sahri must come to terms with them and how she feels about them. Oh, and how she feels about Jekre, too.
As a bodyguard bound by magic, I think Jekre’s backstory and character traits fit the roll perfectly. He is infuriated at the binding placed on him, so that he does not even have free will. Yet, he seems to recognise that Sahri is worth protecting, and there is enough of a push-pull factor there that watching the two of them interact is almost as pivotal to the plot as the actual quest itself.
I think my only real critique for the characters is that the villains of the piece feel a little too villainous without having a well-developed cause. I won’t say a good cause, because the reason given does make sense (if you’re a terrible person). But it is only mentioned a few times and feels a little flat. Otherwise, I love the characters.
3. Favourite part
The ending. I can’t tell you much, because that would involve spoilers, but I can tell you that it was dramatic and poignant and, despite giving me all the “oh, no!” feelings, fit the story perfectly. That’s as far as I can tell you, sorry. (Not sorry.)
The ending. While it does fit with the story nearly perfectly, I think the final climax that leads into the very last image with Jekre and the afterwards bit moved just a touch too quickly. I would have liked to have seen the true consequences of that, and where it might lead, as well as make sure everyone else in the story understands just how significant the events were. Still, I think it was a good ending. Even if it was really terrible of the writer to do that to me… (As a writer, I appreciate this so much. As a reader, less so.)
Overall, I would say Princess of Beasts is a really charming and entertaining book. It has great characters and a plot that is both familiar and fun in the best ways. Even if you disagree with me about the ending bits, I would say this book is absolutely worth a read. Very good.