Princess Malva–the Princetta of Galnicia–flees her kingdom and an arranged marriage, only to find herself betrayed by the very man who promised to help her. Orpheus is the son of a sea-captain-turned-pirate and is determined to make a name of his own commanding a ship in Galnicia’s royal armada. But when their paths cross on the high seas, so do their destinies. Together the Princetta and Orpheus will travel to edges of the Known World and beyond . . . a journey from which only one of them will return alive. Shipwrecks, shark attacks, barbarians, and mysterious archipelagos await readers in this lavish fantasy-adventure written by one of France’s most celebrated authors.
To be honest, I’m not really sure why I picked up this book. I was just perusing the shelves at the library when this book caught my eye. The cover and blurb both intrigued me, so I picked it up and am so glad I did. The Princess and the Captain is an exceptional fantasy novel, rich in world-building, plot and character development.
From the very first page, you are swept up in the beautiful and vivid description of Galnicia and I was continually impressed with the world building throughout the entire novel. Every place the characters visit comes to life and though fantastical, they never stray far from the realm of believable. The busy city life in Galnicia, the nomadic life on the Azzian steppes, the quiet life of Spertan fisherman and Catabea’s horrible islands are all still fresh in my mind. Each place has its own culture too, taking the world-building to the next level. I loved the variety of settings which span from deserts to tropical islands and the detail and thought put into each one.
The story starts with action – there are no drawn out introductions or characters sketches. There is plenty of time for that along the journey and it was refreshing to read a book that just begins with the story. Action packed scenes are interspersed with quieter ones in perfect balance. Every chapter brings something new to the story and it is impossible to guess at what’s to come. Set aside a lot of time to read this book as you will not want to put it down. Though the overall mood of the book seems light and adventurous, it is actually rather dark, especially towards the end. That being said, it is a fun read – the perfect armchair getaway read in fact.
There is a lot of humour in the novel as well as romance. It is not your typical romance but that made me enjoy it more. It also never becomes the focus of the story and doesn’t bring about any huge changes – it is just there, sweet and innocent. The book is terribly sad too and the story is as much about hope and happiness as it is about sadness and loss. People die and the characters must learn how to move on and keep fighting.
The character development is extremely well done. If you compare the characters at the end to who they were at the beginning, they are almost different people. The change happens gradually, so you are not aware of it until you remember a detail from the beginning and are shocked by how much they changed. Malva begins as a self-centered, slightly arrogant, stubborn princess but grows into a strong and independent women. At the beginning Philomana is subservient and unsure of herself, but becomes proud and resourceful adult. Orpheus begins as a shy and lazy man with many grudges. By the end, he is brave and confident. And its not only these characters who change – all the characters do. You are probably wondering what brings about these changes, but that’s for you to discover when you read the book.
I liked the ending though I can see why some people wouldn’t. It is sad and heartbreaking but ends how I wanted it to with both hope and sadness. Recommended to fans of fantasy novels.