I’m always on the lookout for middle grade books which showcase princesses who take charge of their own destiny, and Princess Rose and the Quest of the Golden Gown is a lovely example!
Book: Princess Rose and the Quest of the Golden Gown by Jennifer and Daniel Frazier
Read before: No
Publication date: 25th August 2020
Ownership: Ebook review copy sent free of charge by authors. All opinions my own.
On Princess Rose’s thirteenth birthday, she’s given a map and sent on a quest to find the four separate parts of her coronation gown and save her kingdom. With the help of stable boy Joseph, her horse Wisher, and a few friends she meets along the way, she undertakes a journey across magical lands that will test her to her limits and ultimately teach her how to be a queen. It’s a fun adventure full of some of my favourite things – fairy tale elements, magical cats, and girls learning that strength comes in many different forms.
Rose’s adventures as she searches for the parts of the golden gown are episodic in nature, which would make this perfect as a bedtime story book to read sections from each night. Many of the episodes draw from fairy tale inspiration, but rework the familiar into something new – for example, she meets a troll by a bridge and there are three goats, but the story does not at all go where you think it might! This fairy tale vibe comes through clearly in the writing, too, which has that classic, somewhat detached, narrative tone. This can veer slightly towards being overly stylistic across a book this long, and the dialogue in particular can be a bit too formal occasionally, but I think that it works well with the general feel of the book, and if you were to split it into chunks for reading aloud, you wouldn’t even notice!
As with the most traditional of fairytales, there is an emphasis on being resourceful, thoughtful, and kind, which was great to read. No part of the quest is solved by violence or brute force, and so Rose does a lot of growing up over the course of the book – both physically, as the quest lasts several years, and emotionally, as she becomes an excellent problem solver and learns a lot about her privilege and real life outside the castle. She’s brave, for example, but we get to see the effort it takes her to be brave in the face of fear, and it’s touches like this that make her a really compelling heroine. One thing I really loved was the insight that Rose gained into her mother’s life – since all princesses in her family must undergo this quest, Rose’s journey really helps her to understand her mother as a peer, not just a parent. I loved that she was able to meet some characters who had known her mother as a young woman, and get a picture of her as her own person, not just her mother. Realising your parents are also just human is a key part of becoming mature, and it’s tackled really effectively here – their reunion at the end is lovely.
I think this is a book that could be enjoyed by readers from middle grade up – there’s certainly plenty for an adult to enjoy in it too! If you’re in the mood for a magical quest that requires more than macguffins to solve, and a capable, strong, and kind heroine, this is definitely one to check out. Four out of five cats!