After a series of natural disasters, the modern world is destroyed and society reverts to a previous time in technology with steam and carriages, limited petrol for just a few wealthy hoarders, and desperate searches for safe soil to plant green things. During disasters some people cling to the past and try to protect their bubble of normalcy. Some people adapt and seek to help others. Then, there are the villains – people like Cornelius Holister who reminded me much of Hitler. These villains trick others and provide tempting offers for a future by destroying the old and hiding their diabolical schemes to seize power.
When princess Eliza’s father is killed, her older sister Mary and little brother Jamie try to escape with Eliza. When they are captured, Eliza must escape and find a way to come back and save Mary and Jamie. While the villain believes he is a modern Robin Hood, we soon discover his plans for the future. Eliza must gain new strength to rescue her family, lead her people to saving themselves, and defeat the villain.
Sometimes you just need to read a little fast-moving dystopian fiction with a kick-butt princess as the heroine. The Last Princess was a fun read, perfect for students who don’t need a great deal of character development or every loose strand interwoven back into the story. Let me point out the bad first before I rave about why I liked it. Flaws:
- moves too quickly
- events left undeveloped and unexplained (cannibals, Seventeen Days, Jasper the horse’s fate)
- setting hovers between future 2090 England and a historical feel
- shallow romance
- characters not fully developed
Now, on to the good stuff. The Last Princess was an excellent fantasy read for middle-schoolers and young adults. I loved the tenuous feeling that these characters were possible since there were references to Princess Diana and Princess Kate. Those of us who love the royal family despite all their flaws will lap up the historical details of the Tudors and the House of Windsor. Royal princesses named Mary and Elizabeth (Eliza) and commoners named Polly are familiar to those of us who grew up on the classics. Some of the early scenes remind me of recent movies of the Queen and her semi-sheltered life.
I liked how the author Galaxy Craze made me think and put together pieces of the puzzle in the beginning to grasp what was happening and the timeframe. I was so hooked by the first five chapters that I couldn’t set the book down. I needed answers. I needed hope and I felt I was part of the heroine Eliza as she transformed and became stronger. While the beginning pages showed us a glimpse of protected royalty that were vaguely aware of the poverty and starvation around them, it was the description of Eliza’s saving a baby blue jay that enabled me to see her drawing strength to grow and meet these challenges:
Then one day he looked at me and opened his wings. I could see that his courage had grown inside him, and he lifted off, flying for the first time around the palace grounds. I opened my eyes to see the flaming torches of the Tudor Army running across the gardens, searching the grounds. Thinking about Blue and the first time he flew, I felt a wave of strength rise up within me, pulling me up, bringing me once again to my feet. I stood up in the night, without anger or fear, but with the knowledge that I, Eliza Windsor, had a light within me that could not be so easily extinguished. When I was younger, I might have thought it was a guardian angel, or God, who saved me. But now I knew that I would save myself.
Eliza realizes she must save herself. As the story progresses, she faces the mistakes of the past and finds a path between vengeance and justice. While a romance begins, the author doesn’t focus on this as it would be a distraction to our heroine’s actions, plus I like keeping the novel accessible to middle school this way. The author leaves us wanting the sequel. I enjoyed the writing and the constant action. Eliza faces many difficulties, yet has tiny moments where her good heart and generous spirit are allowed to show. She does not become power-hungry. Her focus is on saving her family and restoring her sister to the throne to lead the people. She does not covet the throne. She makes hard choices and overcomes the loss of those dearest to her.
Let’s talk about the setting. The places listed here will be easy for students to locate and learn more about. Knowing that the author Galaxy Craze was born in England before moving to the U.S. to become an actress, we can see how she has incorporated places of importance. We read about the Tower of London, Balmoral Castle, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Paddington Station and Buckingham Palace. One place of importance was the Steel Tower – a maximum prison set in London. I had to go check to see if such a structure existed. Instead I found references to the Steel Tower being built for the London Olympics this summer. Actually called the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, this is not the structure mentioned in The Last Princess. It was such a strange structure that I did have to include a [picture though.
Throughout the Last Princess, Eliza visits places that currently exist, but have changed due to the disaster. In many ways, the places remain, but the method people survive has changed which gives this novel a historical feel much more than a futuristic feel.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience reading this quick-moving novel and cannot wait to read the sequel. If you read the reviews on GoodReads, you’ll see many people with mixed emotions. I can understand their reactions, but I simply enjoyed this title and thought it was a good summer reading kick-off. I hope you enjoy it too.
The Last Princess was reviewed as an ARC from the publisher.