The Princess and the Hound

by Mette Ivie Harrison

{ 2007 | HarperTeen | 416 pgs }

I apologize for not writing reviews until now – a downside, for me, is that I don’t have as good a memory of the books as I would have earlier…

Harrison’s book The Princess and the Hound was not at all what I expected. It isn’t told by the princess: she isn’t introduced until a fair bit into the book. Instead, the narrator is the prince who is betrothed to the princess. Yes, surprisingly, the storyteller in a vaguely romantic medieval fantasy novel is male, written by a female author. And it was good storytelling! I suppose the most basic premise of the book is that this kingdom has forbidden communication between humans and animals – in the past, there were some who practiced “animal magic,” but those days are gone (in part because of a wicked king who…well, I won’t give it away). And not only are they gone, they’re lost in legend. So you can imagine the trouble it would bring if the current king married a woman who could – and did – speak to animals.

And then we add in the storyline of the princess, Beatrice, and her hound. Beatrice is notoriously cold, her only relationship being a deep friendship with her hound. I’ll just say that I was rather thrown off by Harrison’s plot; she set everything up so that I could easily predict what was coming next – and then I turned out to be wrong. It was brilliant. Harrison included extremely subtle hints and foreshadowing for both the obvious and the surprise plots, which meant things still made sense even after I was caught off guard.

I might say that the book had too many loose ends tied up too neatly, but here my memory fails me. It could have been the opposite, that I had lingering questions left unanswered. If it is the latter, Harrison has followed this book with The Princess and the Bear (2009). I plan to read it.

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