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A Posse of Princesses
Sherwood Smith
YA Angst/Norilana Books, 297 pages

A Posse of Princesses
Sherwood Smith
Sherwood Smith has written a number of solo novels including Wren To The Rescue, Wren's Quest, and Wren's War, along with The Borrowers, which is a novelization of the screenplay for the movie of the same name. Perhaps Sherwood Smith's best known work is her collaboration with with Dave Trowbridge in writing the five-book Exordium series. Further collaborative efforts include work with Andre Norton in co-writing Derelict For Trade and A Mind For Trade, two titles in the Solar Queen universe. Smith has written some of the titles in the Planet Builders series as Robyn Tallis, plus a number of titles as Jesse Maguire in the Nowhere High series, both from Ballantine Ivy, and one as Nicholas Adams in the Horror High series from Harper.

Sherwood Smith Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Crown and Court Duet
SF Site Review: A Mind For Trade
SF Site Review: The Borrowers
Review: A Posse of Princesses
Sherwood Smith Blog
Sherwood Smith Biography

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A review by Georges T. Dodds

In a world of relatively peaceful small kingdoms where magic is operated by mages and the usual feudal trappings exist, Lios, Crown Prince of Vesarja, invites the young princesses and princes of the world to a several day coming out party (i.e. a sort of cotillion), in his parent's castle. Rhis, princess of a small remote mountain kingdom, who has grown up stifled by protocol, is one of those who attends the festivities. In the ensuing days of making friends and interacting with her peers, she proves an excellent mediator and defuser of dicey situations. When Iardith, a beautiful but vain and self-centered princess is kidnapped, seeing the potential diplomatic crisis and having discovered the deceitful ways of a young man she liked, Rhis leads in spirit, if not in terms of practice, a mounted rescue party of princess-friends. Rhis' adventures lead her into various dangers, allow her to discover some of her hidden talents, and after some tribulations and delays to be joined with the prince she loves.

While my recent steady diet of 19th century boys' adventure dime novels (where female heroines are as rare as kangaroos on Mars) might have given me a somewhat misogynistic view of women heroines, remarkably, it was not, on this basis, that I had trouble with A Posse of Princesses. Given that I have a teenage daughter of my own, I can attest that the insecurities and interpersonal interactions portrayed during the time the young princes and princesses were hobknobing together were well portrayed, and while the existence of a posse of princesses in the pseudo-feudal world of the novel seems unlikely, it didn't really detract from the tale. Really, it was the last quarter of the novel that seemed to go awry.

Rhis and her posse seem to manage quite well throughout without more than a minor incidental use of magic, but when all hope of escape seems lost, Rhis calls upon her sister for magical help. OK, a bit of a change in direction, but Rhis had been lugging the amulet around with her, so why not use it? In escaping, Rhis is drawn to a diamond-like stone atop a tower, which she retrieves before rejoining her posse (who themselves all managed to escape with minimal magic use), and Prince Lios' own posse. When they are caught at the border, Rhis threatens to throw the stone into chasm if they are not allowed to escape, and she wakes up some days later exhausted. It turns out the stone is a powerful magical artefact set over the city to protect it, that only a certain number of such stones exist, that they may impose a nefarious enthralling control over the person holding them, and that a far-away wizard-king of dubious character, who may or may not be enthralled himself, would very much like to collect as many of the stones as possible. Seem familiar? Seem ominous? Seem like Rhis might be the lynch-pin in a titanic struggle between good and evil?

One might expect that Rhis, as one who unexpectedly -- given that she had no magical training -- was capable of handling the stone without being enthralled, would prove to be some sort of prophesied protector of the stones, or have to run off and dump them in some volcano. It turns out that the stone has been handed over to the magical authorities, never to be heard of again, Rhis is told she can't see the prince she loves (nor he, her) for five years, and she is sent off on some vague semi-magical training, semi-magical because as an heir to a throne she cannot be a full magic user. Either the author is glaringly setting up a sequel, or the entire magic stone episode is a completely aleatory and pointless tangent.

One can forgive the romantic notion that even after the five years apart, Rhis and her prince are still in love and will seemingly live happily together forever after, but barring a sequel, the stone incident mars what would otherwise be an entertaining and well-written young adult fantasy.

Copyright © 2008 by Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist whose interests lie predominantly in both English and French pre-1950 imaginative fiction. Besides reviews and articles at SFSite and in fanzines such as Argentus, Pulpdom and WARP, he has published peer-reviewed articles in fields ranging from folklore to water resource management. He is the creator and co-curator of The Ape-Man, His Kith and Kin a website exploring thematic precursors of Tarzan of the Apes, as well as works having possibly served as Edgar Rice Burroughs' documentary sources. The close to 100 e-texts include a number of first time translations from the French by himself and others. Georges is also the creator and curator of a website dedicated to William Murray Graydon (1864-1946), a prolific American-born author of boys' adventures. The website houses biographical, and bibliographical materials, as well as a score of novels, and over 100 short stories.

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