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REVIEW: Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Dear Ms. Osterlund,

Book CoverWhen I received this book from Jane, I was excited. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book solely about a princess and I admit I had a soft spot for them when I was younger. And not only did Aurelia feature a crown princess, it also had the spymaster’s son who loves her and an assassination plot. So many elements I love in one book. How could it possibly go wrong?

Aurelia is heir to the throne of a kingdom currently ruled by a king who’s driving it to bankruptcy in order to please his second wife, Aurelia’s stepmother. Needless to say, while the common people love Aurelia, they have little respect for her father. But it appears someone doesn’t share the citizens’ affection for the crown princess. Unbeknownst to Aurelia, someone has been trying to kill her. They’ve succeeded in foiling the assassination attempts so far but how long can that last? So the king asks his spymaster to come out of retirement to find the assassin and the person who hired him. Unfortunately, his former spymaster refuses. Instead the spymaster’s son, Robert, comes to the capital.

In theory, this storyline should have fascinated me. It promised me twists and turns through political and courtly intrigue to ferret out Aurelia’s would-be assassin. I love this type of plot in adult fantasy so I was excited to see how it would be executed in a young adult fantasy. Sad to say, not only were there not enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes, Aurelia turned out to be that well-known heroine type called “feisty.”

Now I don’t mind feisty and sassy characters in YA fiction, provided they have something to back it up. But when a crown princess walks into the public marketplace to do her own shopping, accompanied by a single maid (that, of course, is also a close friend) and a token number of guards? My suspension of disbelief is a little stretched. And when that same princess comes upon a mob about to tear apart her father’s statue and actually walks into the center of the riot to ask them what’s wrong? Any credibility about Aurelia’s common sense flew out the window. I have a hard time believing that royalty and commoners can interact on casual terms but I can let it go if the writing’s good enough. But an angry mob on the verge of violence? And neither the maid nor guards try to stop her? I don’t think so.

I’ve also said in the past that I love storylines that involve friends becoming more. Aurelia and Robert should have been that. They grew up together and shared many of the same classes when Robert still lived in the capital. But their relationship struck me as so one-sided it utterly failed to work for me. This was especially disappointing given how many opportunities for flirting and interactions the book offered — like the the midnight carnivale and the numerous court scenes. Instead, Aurelia came off as so prickly and standoffish — and not in a sympathetic and charming way — that I felt sorry that poor Robert fell for such a disagreeable girl.

Ultimately, what ruined the book for me was the ending. I’d figured out one piece of the puzzle but the rest of it seemed to have come out of nowhere and with so little development that I honestly was confused. Not about the resolution but about whether or not the ending was even part of the same book! I felt like I’d missed a crucial part of Aurelia’s character growth and I even went back to check if I’d somehow skipped any chapters.

If we’d been given more hints about the true culprit behind Aurelia’s assassination plot and the reason why the assassin would ultimately never be brought to justice, I could have accepted the ending. Sadly, I didn’t feel that way and overall, this turned out to be a disappointing read. C-

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon, Powells or ebook format.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

6 Comments

  1. Pam Minster
    Apr 28, 2008 @ 15:34:55

    I found your review very surprising, and can only explain it by remembering that we all have different tastes. I felt that Anne Osterlund developed a complex character who lived the life of a princess, but had suffered great losses in her young life. Her father couldn’t deal with them, and refused to help her understand them. She really had no body who just loved her unconditionally, until Robert returned to Tyralt. It stands to reason that she was suspicious and unwilling to trust anyone with her heart.

    I was relieved at the sublety of the romance in the story. I don’t care for too much “mush.” Primarily, though, I loved that Robert’s main concern was for Aurelia’s safety and happiness. He intuitively understood her fear, insecurity and confusion and wanted to behave in a way that would best serve her. (Hmmm, did that sound a little mushy?)

    I thought the ending had some surprises, but I was not shocked because I think there was plenty of foreshadowing along the way. I found it very satisfying. Good job, Ms. Osterlund, and my daughters and I are anxiously awaiting your second book.

    Pam

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  2. rebecca
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 00:08:04

    I love princess novel but I have to admit that the ending was disappointing especially that the villians were never brought to justice and how there was not enough romance and the rest of the romance was not developped enough

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  3. trisha
    Jun 27, 2008 @ 04:28:44

    I think at first, I was hoping for something more along the lines of Megan Whalen Turner. Which is totally not what I ended up getting. Still, I was willing to go along with everything and was enjoying the book enough to keep reading. But then, the ending. I’m with rebecca. Disappointing, to say the least.

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  4. What are the odds « The YA YA YAs
    Jul 02, 2008 @ 17:34:59

    [...] Kids Lit, Kiss the Book, Read a Great Teen Book!, and Teen Book Review. And some Aurelia reviews: Dear Author, Kel’s Thoughts. [...]

  5. Emily
    Oct 03, 2008 @ 08:01:18

    Well, I agree with you about the whole “feisty” heroine type. Aurelia was so typical it really, really bored me. For a book called “Aurelia”, I liked Robert so much more. I didn’t feel that their relationship was one sided, however, I do agree about the fact that they never flirted. The whole thing was such a let down!

    I know that she said that Aurelia is a three part book, so hopefully the ending will be fleshed out in the other books. I felt like the end was supposed to wrap it up, but instead, it added an entirely new part to it.
    The thing I did like was that instead of ending really hunky-dory, it wasn’t perfect. Now, who knows if it’ll all end perfectly in the third book, whatever.

    But I did feel like Aurelia, who apparently is loved by all of her people, did leave her subjects in quite a lurch to go off soul-searching. Oh well. Hopefully that will be fixed in the sequel(s), which I will probably buy.
    All in all, I agree with you somewhat, and I had very mixed feelings about this book.

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  6. Jessica
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 05:44:43

    You have said that you love this type of plot in adult fantasy and of storylines that involve friends becoming more. Can you recommend any?

    ReplyReply

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