Rogue Princess by B. R. Myers is, by all accounts, right up my alley. It’s a Cinderella retelling, which we all know I love, with a strong female lead and a pretty interesting plotline. I should have loved this book. Unfortunately, I did not. And when I sat down to think about why I didn’t fall in love with this book just as I have many Cinderella retellings in the past (I swear, Cinderella retellings have to be the one film type that I’ve watched the most of, not even getting into novels that I’ve read), it came down to essentially two things: the writing and the inspiration.
Also, just as a note to all reading this: in order for me to accurately explain my issues with Rogue Princess, there will be a lot of spoilers. I’ll try to keep the huge plot twists under a hidden “see more” option so you can choose to click to read it if you’d like, but a lot of the general things will be mentioned.
I referenced it earlier in a brief initial reaction review that I wrote, but Rogue Princess spent a lot of time taking inspiration from various other Cinderella retellings. From Marissa Meyer’s Cinder–which happens to be my favorite series of all time–to Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted (the movie version, though). This, I suppose, can be forgivable in some circumstances. Whenever we’re looking at a retelling you have to expect that a certain number of things in the story will have come from other stories. And depending on how it’s done, I genuinely don’t mind it. Just look at Cinder, a mashup of various fairytales from Rapunzel to Snow White alongside Cinderella and Sailor Moon. And I love Meyers’ The Lunar Chronicles with all my heart.
The problem with Rogue Princess is it takes too much.
And sure, I’ll give it some credit where credit is due: many of the things Myers mixed into her novel were actually pretty cool. She included some wonderfully fascinating plot points regarding androids, though a deus ex machina did clean up the end conflict far too quickly. Regardless, Myers was able to make some of the ideas lifted from other renditions her own in a pretty exciting way.
That is…right up until it comes to Ever After.
See, I can get behind the way Myers blended Ella Enchanted and Cinder. It was new and interesting; best of all it actually worked. But the amount of lifting that was done from Ever After seriously bothered me. It was so blatant that I basically was able to figure out 99% of the plot the moment I noticed what was happening. What’s worse, Myers lifted near-exact lines from the film.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a gif for “are you coy on purpose?”
Then there’s the fact that the purpose behind the line was lifted, too, since it all came down to royal character wanting to know the name of our Cinderella character. I legitimately wanted to scream. Listen, I named my iPhone after Prince Henry from this film. There wasn’t even a slight chance that I wasn’t going to catch that one.
Anyway, that one line basically began my irritation, but the rest of the novel continued it. Let’s talk about some other parallels this novel had with Ever After.
It begins with the very start of the novel.
Our story begins with Princess Delia/Prince Henry stealing a method of transportation (spaceship/horse) to escape an arranged marriage. Throughout the story, interactions between Delia/Henry and their parents revolve around the need for the arranged marriage that Delia/Henry does not want. The aforementioned transportation theft and subsequent escape is interrupted by the involvement of Aiden/Danielle with some small differences between film and book.
Then the pirates/gypsies attack (I am unsure if this term is appropriate as it was used in the film and so, for the rest of this review I will be using the term Roma), again, with some differences. Danielle wasn’t involved in that part of the movie and Aiden is involved in the novel. Next, that bit of name runabout happens, resulting in my losing my mind. Then they’re attacked by pirates/Roma again. This attack results in a fight between Princess/Prince and one of the pirates/Roma where the strong female character has a victory. This victory results in the two joining the group of outcasts for a party.
And at this party, naturally, Delia/Henry and Aiden/Danielle share a kiss. And here is where another piece of my irritation comes in. This kiss was described almost exactly as the kiss in the film is acted, right down to the cheering from their new group of friends and the turn of Delia/Danielle’s chin.
At this point, I was 100% certain that Myers was lifting from Ever After.
The story progresses and Delia/Henry drops Aiden/Danielle off at home, asking that they meet them in a special place (a sacred tree by the lake / sacred ruins). Some awfulness, with differences, happens to Aiden/Danielle at the hands of the horrible stepfamily, though at least one of the stepsiblings seems less awful than the others (admittedly, this is more obvious in the film than the book and I may have been guessing based on prior knowledge here). Then Aiden/Danielle meets Delia/Henry at the special place and the conversation begins with talk of love and proceeds to end unhappily.
Next, the Ella Enchanted and Cinder bits come in via a plot twist. I’ll say that this probably could have been a really brilliant piece of the story had it not been for the fact that the general idea was so blatantly borrowed from other retellings. [spoiler]This plot twist ultimately leads to the hall of mirrors almost murder scene you see in the Ella Enchanted movie and the revolution bit that I still think it’s very reminiscent of The Lunar Chronicles’ Winter. A case could be made for the revolution being Myers’ own addition, though. Aiden’s secret, however, is very much inspired by Marissa Meyers’ Cinder. Back to Ever After, the stepfamily, minus one nice sibling who has actually been trying to help this whole time, gets punished and then Cinderella and his/her Princess/Prince live happily ever after![/spoiler]
Everyone goes home happy?
Eh, I just don’t know about this one. The degree to which I saw other stories tangled in together just got so excessive. I think, perhaps, I could have forgiven it a little more than I have had I actually liked the characters, but even that was difficult for me. This I chock up to the writing itself just not being up to par. I found Aiden extremely annoying basically every single time he spoke and I never understood, not for a second, why he or Delia liked each other. There was a lot of insta-love involved, which only made the whole thing worse.
I can’t say it was terrible. I’ve definitely read much worse in the past. At the same time, though, there’s not a lot of redeeming in this novel. I’d rather just watch Ever After and Ella Enchanted on their own and read The Lunar Chronicles again. I didn’t need this mashup and all it really did was irritate me in the end. Also, I got definite Aladdin vibes from Aiden on so many occasions that I was genuinely thrown off since I knew in advance that it was a gender-bent Cinderella.
So, ultimately, we’re left with a subpar gender-bent Cinderella retelling that borrowed heavily from a lot of other places (I’m sure I’ve even missed something). And all it did was leave me irritated in the end. Add the fact that it was initially super hard for me to get into at first (I began reading this book in November and only just finished it in March) and I just can’t really find a way to appreciate it.
But, on the bright side:
I found an “are you coy on purpose” gif!!
“Are you coy on purpose or do you honestly refuse to tell me your name?”