This time around, I chose a sci-fi/fantasy novel that takes place in the Kingdom of Westeria. Westeria appears to be technologically slightly ahead of our time with a touch of old world royalty thrown in. It is ruled by a queen whose heir and daughter has not been seen in public in close to a decade. It’s well known in the kingdom that the Princess Amelia has always been very ill, though she is being treated and rumored to be getting better.
The story is told from the perspective of a girl by the name of Victoria. She is being raised by a family, and it seems unclear if she is merely a servant (as she is treated as one) or a member of their family. (She has a governess and is expected to learn much the same things as the two daughters of the household.)
One thing I do need to mention here, as a warning, is that the main character of this book is physically abused by the man raising her, and it does happen more than once throughout the book. While there doesn’t seem to be any sexual abuse involved, the man doing the beatings clearly seems to take pleasure in causing her a great deal of pain as punishment for any perceived fault. He also forces his two daughters to participate in the beatings as well. It is clear that his wife is aware of this abuse, though she never seems to do anything to try to stop it or to protect any of the girls from her husband’s temper and beatings. For many readers, this may be enough to cause them to want to avoid this book.
The premise of this story is that Victoria, as well as 6 other girls scattered across the kingdom, are clones of the Princess Amelia. None of them were aware of their heritage, nor had they any reason to suspect they were anything other than ordinary girls. Then one day, a message arrives from the capital summoning them all to the castle. The girls learn that they are each clones of the sick princess. They are told that the princess had died several years earlier and that one of them would be chosen to take her place, would be married to the Prince from the neighboring country, and would someday become the next queen of Westeria.
The girls are given 4 weeks to get to know the prince and to try to win his heart. Only one of them can become Princess Amelia, but what will happen to the other 6 clones who aren’t chosen for the role? After all, while their personalities differ from each other, they are all physically identical. It was known that the queen only had one child, so there can only be one chosen to take the place of the dead princess. What will they do with the 6 extra girls once the prince has chosen the one he wishes to marry? And what happens when Victoria accidentally discovers the secret room in the basement where the crippled, but still very much alive, real Princess Amelia has been locked away and begins visiting her?
The book is well written, and despite the issue of the abuse from one of the chosen parents, it is an interesting concept. It does, however, end with a cliffhanger. The sequel is due out in October, so anyone choosing to read this book will have to wait for a few months before they can find out what happens to the original Amelia and the cloned princesses. I will admit to being curious as to what will happen next, though I am as yet uncertain whether I will seek out book two in the series or not.