3 out of 4 stars
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Primrose Fernetise is a beautiful young girl. Her father has suffered a stroke, and she must go into the enchanted forest to retrieve a divine flower to restore his health. Upon entering the woods, she meets magical talking creatures who recruit her on a journey to save the world while saving her father—if she can defeat the evil queen.
Primrose's Curse: A Fairy Tale of an Audacious Girl by Kiara Shankar and Vinay Shankar is a fantasy story aimed at middle-grade readers. The author is a middle school student herself, and her father has helped her develop this book. It is a cute and easy read, especially for those who enjoy lighter fantasy stories.
I absolutely adore this novel! I have always been interested in fairy tales, going so far as to focus on them for academic research. Shankar's writing style is appropriate for the target audience, and she infuses the story with humor, good manners, and delicious food. Oftentimes with fantasy settings, a willing suspension of disbelief is required; Shankar does not expect her readers to accept the magic of the world but rather answers potential questions through the title character. When first encountering the talking animals, Primrose wonders how and why they are speaking her language, which is then promptly explained. I admire how Shankar addresses concerns that may be raised by younger readers. Instead of leaving readers to make up reasons for themselves (or to bother older friends or relatives with such questions), Shankar uses Primrose and the other characters to explain.
While thinking of the negative aspects, I noticed that many of my (very mild) complaints are personal and that not all other readers would view it the same way. There are some clichés in the story, such as the physical appearance of the evil queen and the description of the islands of Hellevue and Heavenvue. There is also a lot of explanation that more mature readers might find unnecessary. However, I know that going against the clichés might be just as bad, and not having an explanation might make it too advanced for the target audience. I also know that younger readers may not know the possibilities of irony and plot twists or have a strong background in fantasy novels so I cannot hold these “complaints” against the book. However, there are numerous grammatical and punctuation errors throughout, which does count against it. I am also a little disappointed at the stereotypical description of the protagonist—blonde hair, blue eyes, and, quite frankly, boring. The Shankars are not white so I would have been delighted to see them represent their history in the story (according to the daughter's author page, she enjoys Bollywood music; aside from that, nothing else is said about ethnicity).
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I love that Shankar's father is involved in her writing career and that she is getting recognition for her work. She was previously published in a collection of entries from a national writing contest, which is a clear sign that she will continue being successful. I do want to mention that another round of editing is not sufficient to raise the score to perfect—I believe Primrose should be a person of color to really make this novel stand out from all of the other books. Either way, a three out of four stars rating is still pretty good, especially for a teenager. I would suggest that parents read this book with their children, whether pre-teens or younger, because it serves as a way of bonding (as the authors did through the creative process). Otherwise, anyone who enjoys middle-grade fairy tale books will enjoy it.
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