The Princess and the Captain by Anne-Laure Bondoux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Skimming through the reviews, you find a very polarised opinion of the book. To be frank, if you're looking for a happy ending, don't bother reading this book. If you're looking for a tale of magic, love, adventure and the fantastical, you just might like it.
Princess Malva is sick of her life and the expectations her parents, the Coronador and Coronada of Galnicia, have placed on her. Encouraged by her tutor, the Archont, Malva makes a dash for freedom with her friend and chambermaid, Philomena. But at only sixteen, Malva isn't prepared for the dangers and the ordeals of the Known World. Escaping from one terrifying situation to another, Malva pushes on, driven only by her intense desire to reach Elgolia, the perfect utopia once described by a drunken sailor.
Orpheus McBott, of the line of the famous McBott seafaring men, has never set foot on a ship because of a head injury that would kill him after two days at sea. Then he discovers that the injury was a story made up by his father to keep him from discovering his pirating activities. When the Coronador calls for volunteers to go on an expedition to rescue his daughter, Orpheus jumps at the chance to fulfil his childhood dreams.
But the sea is a tricky thing and when Malva, Orpheus and their friends cross the Great Barrier, they have to face the ordeals set before them by the Catabea, Guardian of the Archipelago, in order to return to the Known World. If they fail, they will be tortured to death.
The Princess and the Captain is an enormously entertaining read, full of the fantastical and the magical. It's also full of heartbreak and tears and pain, of course, but that's all part of the story. Bondoux does not hesitate to press into her character's deepest secrets and makes them face their greatest fears - and their deepest desires. Malva is drastically changed by her adventure and you get to watch as she grows from a rebellious teenager into a wise young woman.
The story has a tragic end, as I said in the start, so if you really do not like sad endings, just don't read this book. Yet it is a book of hope and resilience amidst tears and there is much to be glad for too.
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