Friday, 30 June 2017

Royal Replicas

"Princess Amelia is dead... and one of you will replace her."

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Sandalwood has served the Duke and Duchess all her life. Over the years, she’s learned to make due with what she has and endure her surrogate father’s awful punishments. She dreams of escape, but never expected it to come in the form of a message from the Queen of Westeria.

Victoria learns that she’s the Queen’s daughter, the younger sister to Princess Amelia, and it’s time to come home and claim her birthright. When she arrives, she discovers she’s not the only one who received the royal message. Victoria must compete with six other girls to earn the affection of both the Queen and a princely suitor… and to replace the secretly deceased Princess Amelia. If she fails to win the crown, Victoria may just have to fight for her life…

DNF 43%

Confession time - I recieved a free e-copy of his book in exchange for an honest review. However, as you can see, this didn't influence my rating or feedback in any way, shape or form.

The story started out promisingly enough and had an interesting premise, however it suffered in my eyes from an lacklustre protagonist and a big dollop of misogyny. The idea of a poor, put-upon everygirl who turns out to be a long lost princess is fairly standard, so I loved the twist that this everygirl was one of seven, and she'd have to compete for her place. Unfortunately the book seems to go out of its way to bring to mind The Hunger Games; the salt-of-the-earth love interest named "Kale" (K's not all that far from G on a keyboard, right?), the wards of varying poverty and importance surrounding the all-powerful First Ward, the train journey to the power centre and the lavish parties worlds away from our heroine's rough upbringing. Some of the story elements felt a little unpolished too. Four kingdoms called Westeria, Easteria, Northeria and Southeria sounds like something from a first draft. Even the blurb, which states that Victoria is the sister of Princess Amelia is proven to be incorrect in the story - she's actually a clone. Not the same thing.

Victoria was too flat for me to connect with as a narrator. She barely reacted to huge, life-altering events and I never got a sense of how she was feeling. She accepts and never questions. The potentially interesting reveal that she is in fact one of seven clones of the secretly-dead Princess Amelia is squandered, because she - like the other clones - immediately and wholly concerns herself with getting into the prince's pants.

She doesn't worry for her future (presumably there can't be clones of a princess running around the realm, so are the six surplus ones executed when the princes makes his choice? We don't know, because none of the girls even think to ask the question), she doesn't fret over her humanity, or lack thereof, and she stomps around referring to herself as a princess within about five minutes of arriving at the castle. I don't want pages and pages of inner turmoil, but Victoria accepts every twist in the tale that's presented to her laughably easily without so much as a raised eyebrow.

Her "relationship" with Prince Byron was unbearably trite too. He seems to take an immediate shine to her after she stumbles ass-backwards and literally falls into his arms (bleurgh!) but there didn't seem to be much going for him other that the fact he was pretty. There's an incredibly uncomfortable scene when they first kiss where she outright states that she can't pull away or refuse him - and he knows it - because he's a prince. That is not cool. Later on, the author tries to ret-con this by having Victoria say that the prince was forceful, but didn't force her, but no, I'm sorry, I call bullshit on that. She literally said that she couldn't refuse him, and he knew it. Ergo, he forced her. Add to this the numerous scenes of Victoria's step-father/owner beating and abusing her with a thinly-veiled sexual angle and her sort-of-boyfriend-who-she-can't-remember Kale turning up uninvited to "rescue" her from the castle (because women are of course things that you can lay claim to) despite her having no desire to leave, this book's treatment of its main character - and women in general - was a little too skeevy for me.

Once Prince Byron is introduced, the seven clones, seven young women who've had their entire worlds turned upside-down and their very existence thrown into question, descend into the absolute worst cliche of girls fighting over a guy. They bitch, they back-bite, they throw each other under the bus, and for what? The chance to marry some guy they've never met before? And what happens if they don't want to marry him? Who the hell knows, because it never comes up. What happens to the clones who fail to win the prince's hand? Who knows that either, because they never ask. They just get down to the business of fighting amongst themselves, because that's what girls do right? I detest stories that pit women against each other over a man, and, when it became apparent that this was the entirety of the plot, I put the book down because I knew it wasn't going to get any better for me.


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