Can a princess avoid a terrible fate by becoming more selfish?
Aggressively sheltered Annabel is a princess on the cusp of marrying the heir to another country’s throne when she finds herself accused of crimes and unceremoniously dumped in a dungeon by her fiancé. After several months of stasis, though, Annabel manages to release magic for the first time in her life, and, next she knows, she’s somehow gone back in time to when she was twelve, long before she even met the man who’d ruin her life. Having ultimately met with tragedy in her first life, she resolves to avert such a fate in her second, something she pins squarely on her having been too meek and obedient, too willing to let her own will fall by the wayside. Her first act? To insist on enrolling in the same academy her brother attends rather than being the cloistered princess in the castle.
So, this is Tearmoon Academy except that instead of having to be less selfish and solipsistic, the princess here has to become more strong-willed and self-interested (its also, of necessity given differences in the premise, a lot less humorous). But after having lived eighteen years complying with the social and behavioral standards placed on her, Annabel isn’t really primed to change overnight. Nor does it help that she grew up almost entirely walled off from anyone other than relatives and servants. And while this does make it easy to believe that Annabel really is as naive as she is, it gets frustrating after a while just how ignorant she can be, particularly as the book’s key event stretches this to breaking point. Having said that, Annabel’s aware of her own shortcomings, and while insisting that she be allowed to attend school rather than stick to tutors could, on the face of it, seem a pretty minor push against what her parents’ have scripted for her life, its a pretty monumental shift.
Honestly, I don’t have a huge amount to say about this, which is the first in a still-ongoing series. Despite the gloomy circumstances which led to Annabel bopping back in time, its a fairly light read that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for deeper themes. Annabel’s a sweet girl who had a crappy first life, and now she’s a sweet girl who wants to avoid that; she’s working hard to do so, and she’s also found some romance in doing so. I imagine this’ll be the primary source of tension in the next volume, as she herself stresses several times that she’s supposed to make a good diplomatic marriage, and her beau is a talented but unprestigious young man. Her family is mostly depicted as warm in this volume, but given the harshness of the punishment her father imposes late in the book, as well as the aforementioned emphasis on securing a good political marriage, one wonders if that’ll hold up in volume two. (Speaking of her family, I am very much not a fan of her overbearing brother, who insists that the hallways of their fancy school are too unsafe for his sister to travel unprotected… because, yes, young man, the princess of the realm is the one pests would sexually harass, not the commoner girls who don’t have a king for their daddy…)
All in all, it’s a decent book, but I do wish it had a bit more bite to it. I think there’s room for that to develop since things are clearly setting up for more rancorous conflict between Annabel and her parents where her eventual marriage is concerned. No streetdate yet for book two, but I will be picking it up when it does come out.