REVIEW: Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir
When the witch built the forty-flight tower, she made very sure to do the whole thing properly. Each flight contains a dreadful monster, ranging from a diamond-scaled dragon to a pack of slavering goblins. Should a prince battle his way to the top, he will be rewarded with a golden sword—and the lovely Princess Floralinda.
But no prince has managed to conquer the first flight yet, let alone get to the fortieth.
In fact, the supply of fresh princes seems to have quite dried up.
And winter is closing in on Floralinda…
Dear Ms. Muir,
From the blurb and the cover, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a bog standard fairy tale of a princess patiently waiting in a tower to be saved. Indeed it wasn’t. It’s a “standard flipping” look at what happens to someone when they realize that there’s no one to save them except themselves. You go, Floralinda.
It’s not an especially long story and towards the end, we don’t see exactly how some of the monsters of the tower will meet their fate but then that’s not really the point. Floralinda starts out as a beautiful princess with curling golden hair and eyes as blue as sapphires. She has the usual initial responses to her situation of being princess-napped by a witch (with standards who also wants to try some avant garde things). Why not make things interesting, eh?
At first Floralinda waits for the princes to appear and rescue her. They do arrive – twenty four of them – but all she ends up hearing is the crunching sounds of the diamond scale dragon on the first floor munching on dead princes. Well, that’s not going to get her out. Before long, either all the princes currently of age to ride to her rescue are dead or are having second thoughts about how much they really want to rescue a princess. What now?
After starting out a bit hesitantly, Floralinda ends up clearing floor thirty nine all by herself. Thankfully a sulky and peevish non-binary fairy, who was battered by a storm, is blown in through the window and thus begins a partnership. For various reasons, the fairy can’t leave – something it bitches and complains about ceaselessly – but Cobweb is good with figuring out what can be done with the bits and pieces that are left as Floralinda works her way down through the various monsters in the tower.
Their sometimes – no, make that pretty much all the time – contentious relationship is fun to read about as is watching Floralinda heal her infected hands – the goblin inflicted wounds did leave scars but after a while Floralinda doesn’t seem to notice anymore, practice her spear work, strengthen her hands, run steps, and think enough that the cogs in her brain no longer squeak like rusty hinges from lack of use.
Neither Floralinda nor Cobweb are totally nice characters. They have their negatives to balance their positives but what I really liked seeing was each one change over the course of the story. By the end, they are like forged steel that has been heated in the furnace of hard work; hammered into shape by fighting goblins, giant spiders, cockatrices, and devil bears – among others; tested by time; and come out stronger. This was a blast to read. B+