Once Upon a Princess, by Christine Marciniak, review and interview

Today it's my pleasure to be a stop on the blog tour of Once Upon a Princess, by Christine Marciniak (CBAY Books, Middle Grade, April 1, 2018).

Her Royal Highness, Fredericka Elisabetta Teresa von Boden don Morh (Fritzi for short) is the 12-year-old younger daughter of the King and Queen of Colsteinburg, a tiny European principality, and life is good--in honor of her country's 800th anniversary, she's just attended her first ball.  But that night, there is a coup.  Anti-monarchists have taken over the government, and are storming the castle, and so Fritzi, her older sister the heir, and their mother, flee to the United States.  Her father stays behind, because to leave would be tantamount to abdication.  

The suburban American house loaned to them by a former US ambassador to Colsteinburg is a far cry from Fritzi's castle home, and the local middle school is likewise rather a change from her posh French boarding school.  No one can know she is a princess, but Fritzi is determined  never to forget, and so she finds herself taking on the queen bee girl and her followers.  The friendship dramas are of little importance, though, compared to her worry about her father and her country.  She decides to do her part to win back the hearts of her people through social media, recording short videos full of emotion and pride. Unfortunately, they are easily tracked, and the safe house is safe no longer.

And the anti-monarchists find them, and in the violent confrontation and kidnapping that ensues, Fritzi's pride and strength of character will be tested, and she will get the chance to show the world she is a true princess....

The princess having to become an ordinary girl is a fun anti-princess diary conceit, and Fritzi plays her part admirably.  Especially refreshing was her take on the school pecking order; she's oblivious to the nuances of navigating the existing hierarchy because she's so used to being, as a princess, at the top of it.  Though she's not the most introspective or sensitive 12 year old, she has an appealing toughness to her that give her enough umph to carry her story along well.   Princess-loving readers should enjoy this one lots!

and now, an interview with the author.

What was your favorite book as a child and what is the book you most frequently find yourself recommending to others?

I’d have to say one of my favorite books as a child was MANDY by Julie Andrews Edwards. It’s a charming book about an orphaned girl who finds a place for herself. When I first read it I did not realize that the author was the same woman who starred in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, As an adult I found the book again to re-read it, hoping it would stand the test of time, and it did. I found it as charming as I had when I was nine. Other books I read voraciously as a child were the Bobbsey Twin books. Those do not stand up quite as well to adult scrutiny.

What book do I frequently recommend to others? I have very eclectic reading tastes, so what I recommend is going to partly have to do with the interests of the person I’m talking to, and what I’ve recently read. For younger readers I would probably recommend The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. I discovered that book when my daughter was young, and it quickly became one of her favorites. I think it is often overlooked when people discuss great books for children. For older readers I’ve found myself recommending Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford and The Secret Ministry of Ag and Fish by Noreen Roils. Like I said, I have eclectic tastes.

(me:  I love both those Julie Andrews Edwards books too!)

What were the main challenges you faced with setting a present day princess story that included technology?

I think the main challenge for any present day story – princess or not – is that the ubiquitous use of cell phones ruins a lot of plot points. Lost? Look it up on your GPS. Running late? Call the person to let them know. Need someone to come to your rescue, you’ve got help right at your fingertips. Sometimes author’s solve that by letting the character lose their phone, or being out of cell service, or the battery dying. I decided to let Fritzi use the internet in a way that would complicate things for her, not solve all her problems. The biggest problem there is keeping up with what is the latest social media forum that tweens are using these days.

Where did the idea for Once Upon a Princess originally come from?

It seemed to me that it is a fairly common to see stories about someone who is leading a rather ordinary life and suddenly they either find out they are royalty or they marry into royalty and it turns their life upside down. I thought, what if someone was royalty, and then wasn’t – kind of turning the convention on its head.

Going off that question, what's the strangest thing you've ever had to research for a book?

Horse Diving. I was setting a book in Atlantic City during the twenties and discovered that one of the main attractions at the time was a horse diving show where a woman would ride a horse as it dove from a platform into a tank of water. I actually bought and read a book by the premier horse diver of the time. A Girl and Five Brave Horses by Sonora Carver. The title is a bit hokey, but the story was fascinating. Other things I’ve found myself researching have been undergarments of the 19th century, the lay out of a scallop boat, the occupation of Bruges during World War I and when toilet paper was invented.

Can you tell us what you're working on next?

This summer I have an adult romance coming out, Emily’s Song, which is a time travel romance set at the beginning of the Civil War. Works in progress include a middle grade book set in Atlantic City during the twenties and another adult romance, also set in the twenties in New Jersey.

Did you have a playlist of music you listened to when you wrote OUAP?

I really don’t. If I listened to music when I was writing it was most likely going to be Jazz or Classical, because lyrics tend to get in the way of my thought process (harder to write when singing along).

Thank you, Christine!  I'll look forward to reading your future middle grade books.


  1. So excited for this book! Thank you for featuring it, Charlotte!

  2. Sounds like a great book. I really enjoyed the interview and hearing where the idea came from. Wishing Christine the best of luck. I love the cover!

  3. I love that it reverses the princess trope! I think I would really like this one.

  4. So right about cell phones throwing difficulties in the way of a lot of plot points! I'm having a lot of difficulty with this myself in a current work, and I like the idea of embracing it to move the plot rather than trying to get rid of it in order to move the plot.


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