The Last Princess by debut author Galaxy Craze tells the story of the embattled Windsor royal family sometime in the near-ish future, after a series of great global catastrophes leaves the world in ruin and civilization struggles to regain its footing. Eliza Windsor is the second daughter to the royal family, with her older sister Mary in line for the throne and her younger brother Jamie doomed to spend his days sickly and dying from a poison introduced to him in the womb. Earth has been ravaged by a perfect storm of disasters referred to as the Seventeen Days, in which volcanoes, earthquakes, and all other manners of natural malevolence were unleashed at the same time. Resources are scarce, and society lives in shambles. Some have even resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When the discontented and power-hungry rebel Cornelius Hollister murders both of her parents and captures her two siblings, Eliza is forced to head out into the world on her own in order to stop the country from falling into worse chaos. Her only option is to become a part of the enemy troops, and in doing so she meets Westley, a soldier who knows her secret and has one or two of his own.
Let’s start with the good on this one. First, the plot is definitely the stronger force in the novel over characters, which makes this a page turner. There is no lack of action in here. Eliza is faced with all kinds of challenges, not only from her enemies who are trying to capture her, but also from the environment itself, which sounds so toxic it’s a wonder anyone survived. The author created an interesting character in Wesley, the bad guy who is actually good (no spoiler here, you all know it’s true just from reading the inside cover). And although the amount of time we actually get to hear Wesley talking is short, I got the feeling he could be complicated in a good way and so I was able to root for him.
Where the plot is fairly strong in this novel, it really lacks a similar force in characterization. You can go ahead and add Eliza to the list of Mary Sue heroines that there has been no shortage of recently. This girl is kind and selfless, loves her father and mother, saves her little brother from running away and dying in the forest, and escapes a burning castle. She saves a dog, a blue jay, and magically befriends a tortured and crazed enemy warhorse by sheer will, who then loves her so much she follow her around miraculously for the rest of the book. There is really no good reason given as to why Westley takes a liking to her; he saves her several times, but their conversation is very limited, and basically the second time the get any alone time they spill some deep secrets and lay in bed together. And once again, Eliza is the type that decides that she LOVES him after just these few encounters. It makes me feel like good conversation and slow relationship building are becoming endangered species in the world of young adult, but that shouldn’t be the case.
I also had a really hard time with the whole world in catastrophe thing. This novel hinges on the fact that the world is in ruins, but for me a lot of it didn’t make any sense. Supposedly the whole world was victim to a bunch of huge disasters (think The Day After Tomorrow) and this apparently means that there are hardly any surviving plants, animals, sources of energy, means of communication, or modern technology more advanced than guns. Besides the fact that without living trees to photosynthesize and create oxygen we would eventually run out of air and die, there’s not a single mention of a computer or the internet, and communication is so impossible that apparently Great Britain doesn’t even know if the rest of the world survived. Now, I know that one good hit to some power systems would cause a lot of issues, but I’m not willing to go so far to believe that we (or such a select group of people) would be resorting to eating each other, as the Roamers do. Which, by the way, I feel slightly offended on behalf of criminals, which no other book has ever made me do. Just because they broke out of jail doesn’t mean their going to go drilling nails in their teeth and eating people. And by the way, you don’t need nails for teeth to eat human flesh. I doubt we’re that tough. Anyway, I may totally be reading into this too much, but it should not have been so farfetched to make me feel like I had to examine the real facts.
I guess I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book on the grounds that it’s pretty much the same as many, many others that I have recently read, and not in a good way. I miss character driven stories and authors who put in the effort to slow cook the romance to golden brown perfection. Before anyone starts throwing tomatoes and calling me a hopeless critic, next time I will review one of the best gems that I have found in this year’s debut challenge, one you should all read.
Till next time!