What Started Out as a Fairy Tale, Ends Like a Scary Tale...
I'm sure you've had this experience. You start into a book, seem to be really enjoying it, and then the author does something that just ticks you off. The Princess Who Forgot She Was Beautiful was the exact arc that I normally go through for stories like this.
Author William David Ellis & Narrator K.C. Wyman are both new to me. Ellis launches into this book as a fairy tale, being told by the grandfatherly figure, Hank/Harry Ferguson, to a group of young children gathered for story time at the library.
Ellis writes Hank in such a way that you're going to like him, and Wyman's performance for Hank (as well as the other characters in the book) is spot on. As someone who, for my livelihood, reads out loud to others, and who for years has read to my children every night, I appreciated the humor accurately portraying Hank's interaction with his audience & frustrations with interruptions to his storytelling. (Can't tell you how many times I've started the chapter for the night with the kids & have 5 interruptions before I've made it through a paragraph).
Hank begins telling the children an exciting tale of a princess, a peasant, and a dragon from long ago. The initial tale & the children's reactions to his tale is delightful. I had similar reactions of "eww" at same moments in my listen as the kids in the library. The story had me laughing several times to begin with.
Very shortly though, you find out that... maybe it's not just a story. You find out the same time as most of the characters in the book & are brutally brought into a violent conflict "between good & evil."
Now... I Love fairy tales. I love good fantasy. I love conflict & the choices characters are forced to make. And I like both tales that are classic "good vs. evil," as well as tales that are more about a confrontations between more instinctual forces (where good & evil are a little more vague).
Here's what I don't like: Brutal violence no more than for the sake of proving a character is evil. Continued brutal violence against children in particular. Random deaths of characters for no apparent, or little apparent reason. Bait and switch of "fairy tale" to Bullets to the head on the case of this particular book.
And like Steven Moffat & Danny Pink in Doctor Who, Ellis gets us liking a character, just to kill them off (Yes, Moffat - I blame you that I didn't like Peter Capaldi's Doctor half as much as Smith & Tennant). To Ellis' credit, whenever children die in this particular book, there are angels who come before they're actually killed to escort them to the other side. It's a bit too convenient for my taste though & mildly deus ex machina to placate people who have a similar distaste for violence against children. And the villains in this book are way too 2 dimensional. Their motivation is just that they are evil. And if its not evident enough from one brutal act of violence, just wait, there's more. They're all actually satanists! So add ritual sacrifice to that list of distasteful things I don't like about this book.
Then you have the odd relationship between Hank & Sarah. I'm not going to drop any spoilers here, but... It's just weird. By the end of the book, some of the weirdness has been stripped away, but that's not until you've had chapters of awkwardness.
Another thing - The title of the book is pretty well covered, and exhausted in the first 2 chapters or so, and then has next to nothing to do with the rest of the plot, thereby again reinforcing the "bait & switch" that I so particularly disliked.
So you get to the end of the book, and, predictably, you have villains (mostly) vanquished, heros reunited, etc. But for the sake of continuing this on to a series (which I will not be pursuing), we get MORE mindless death & violence, and the final reveal that was so poorly set up, that I was able to guess exactly who the next "bad guy" was, with NO prior forshadowing at all. It just felt incredibly contrived.
Also - if you're going to reference C.S. Lewis, even obliquely, do it right. Wood Between the Worlds, not Woods Between the Worlds.
So - my title for this review - reverse of Court Jester - What Started Out like a Fairy Tale, ends like a Scary tale, and life couldn't possibly... (if you haven't watched Court Jester - Check it out instead of this book - You can't beat Danny Kaye).
Though to call it a scary tale at the end might be giving it too much credit. Some people may be able to overlook the things that bothered me about this story. I wanted to like it, but it just kept compounding things I found distasteful with forced writing.
K.C. Wyman does an admirable job as narrator, but there were several instances throughout the audio of lines being repeated. (I'm sure if you listen to all of mine there are a couple too, but there were at least 4 times in this book that should have been edited out).
So - Writing - 2 stars. I'm giving one there because I did laugh at the right parts and there was at least a little progress. Plot - 2 stars. It was just forced & weird. Narration - 4 stars. I'd give it five if there weren't the repeats.
Overall - 2.5 stars. Wyman almost makes me want to bump it up to 3, but I really just can't. As such, I'd certainly listen to something else he narrates. Just not if it's written by Ellis.
After I listened to this, I found another edition that the cover says "Princess Bride meets Stranger Things in Texas." That is honestly a little closer to what to expect with this book. But both Stranger Things & Princess Bride are better written.
I received this audiobook for free from Audiobookboom.com. All opinions expressed here are without a doubt my own however.