No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

2011/64: Once A Princess: Sasharia en Garde, 1 -- Sherwood Smith

"Wait a minute, wait a minute ... so you're trying to tell me that there's tremendous treasure waiting for me?"
Both heads nodded.
"If I take up a cause, one that includes deep magic?"
Vehement nodding.
"And perhaps an ancient castle full of sinister secrets?"
"And all for truth, justice and honor?"
"Yes, yes!"
My anxiety flared into anger. "Oh no you don't," I snarled. "I've been there, done that and they don't even give you t-shirts."
"--shirts?" (location 21)

Sasha is an LA waitress with a penchant for fantasy novels. This is because they remind her of home: 'home' being Khanarenth, whence Sasha and her mother Sun fled fifteen years ago, leaving behind political unrest and Sasha's father Prince Mathias. Now a bunch of freedom fighters from Khanarenth are knocking on Sasha's door, and despite her bitter reluctance they take her back to the land of her birth.

Sasha -- Sasharia Zhavalieshin, again -- finds herself in a swashbuckling milieu of intrigue: there's a dashing pirate with a fondness for lurid clothing, a bunch of brigands whose hearts may be in the right place after all, a lecherous usurper who takes a shine to Sun. (Sasha's mother is definitely not about to let her daughter be snatched away without a fight.) Sasha gets to show off the fencing skills she's picked up on Earth, and finds herself inconveniently attracted to ...

But that would be telling.

One thing I'd definitely tell anyone considering this novel is that it's the first half of the story: I kept wondering how Sherwood Smith was going to wrap up all the plot-threads in an increasingly small number of unread pages, and the answer is that she wasn't. The second book, Twice a Prince, awaits: and the title of that may tell you something about the plot.

Once a Princess is light frothy exuberant fantasy, though there are serious issues playing out beneath the banter and the pretty clothes. Smith's prose is enjoyable and readable, and the world she constructs is fascinating. And, okay, the trope of 'American cultural references in fantasyland' may be a venerable one, but that doesn't stop me laughing out loud when Sasha uses a Bored of the Rings reference to distract her captors.

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