The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.

Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money that could buy her a position as a master herbalist.

But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

You can read an excerpt here.


A spunky fairy tale retelling with undeniable charm, The Princess Curse makes for an original blend of the familiar. I enjoyed reading it, but not as much as I would have liked.

Making well worn fairy tales feel fresh and shiny is always a daunting task, but Haskell rises to the challenge with aplomb. The Princess Curse is built on a foundation of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but it doesn’t stop there – Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty also make an appearance, as does Persephone. And therein lies the fun of this story – it’s a fairy tale that neatly sidesteps the beaten path and gets creative with its ingredients. Yes, you will have a pretty good idea of where this story is going, but the way it gets there will surprise you.

I particularly enjoyed the real life geography and history Haskell integrates into her story. She wedges her fictional country between regions of Romania in the time of Vlad the Impaler, and Hungary and Poland are also very much alive and present in this story. I also loved that Reveka’s idol, Saint Hildegard, is a woman as formidable in real life as in Reveka’s world. It adds a fun spice to this fantasy tale.

Of course, the heart of this book lies in Reveka, our feisty lead. An apprentice herbalist with a reputation for lying, career ambitions, and unsinkable gumption, Reveke is just a fun bundle of trouble. She’s irrepressible, though her father continues to try – and as a renowned General turned gardener, he brings plenty of determination of his own to the table. The ways in which Reveka bewilders her father make for a very fun undercurrent to her attempts to solve the mystery of the Princess curse.

At first I was well and truly caught up in this story, reading merrily along, but towards the latter half of this book I felt my attention begin to wane. I was still vested in seeing how it all would end, but it felt like the plot began to unwind a bit. There was such impetus in Reveka’s quest to uncover the cause of the curse, that once she manages to get to the root of the matter, it kind of deflates the story. She still has plenty left to solve, once that watermark is passed, but the story definitely shifts gears, and it felt like a lower gear to me. My interested dimmed a few watts.

And so I came to the end of this fairy tale a tad unappeased. I enjoyed Reveka very much, and have to applaud Haskell for her fun and unique way of weaving together the stories we know and love so well, but I just wish I could have loved this story as much as I wanted to. Still, in the land of fairy tale retellings, The Princess Curse is definitely an original, and I have no doubt I’ll be reading Haskell again.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Publishers Weekly says:

Debut author Haskell has her way with the story of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” incorporating references to other myths and legends and adding many twists of her own…With a good sense of humor, an able and empowered protagonist, and a highly original take on this tale, Haskell’s story gives readers much to enjoy.

Shanshad Whelan on Goodreads says:

The beginning part of the story is fascinating and I was really enjoying tracking our young protagonists adventure…then at a point about two thirds the way through everything suddenly shifted and the bottom seemed to fall out of the story. I have to wonder if this is the first book in a series, since the whole thing felt…unfinished at the end.

Rebecca’s Book Blog says:

The Princess Curse is…a wonderful mix of fairy tale, mythology, and historical fantasy, and Reveka is a delightful and entertaining narrator. I also loved the unusual setting of Medieval Romania, which really came to life…an enchanting debut novel by Merrie Haskell.