Title: A Posse of Princesses

Author: Sherwood Smith

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: YA Angst (original publisher) / new ebook edition from Book View Cafe
Publication Date: March 2008
Hardcover: 300 pages

Rhis, princess of a small kingdom, is invited along with all the other princesses in her part of the world to the coming of age party of the Crown Prince of Vesarja, which is the central and most important kingdom. When Iardith, the prettiest and most perfect of all the princesses, is abducted, Rhis and her friends go to the rescue.

What happens to Rhis and her posse has unexpected results not only for the princesses, but for the princes who chase after them. Everyone learns a lot about friendship and hate, politics and laughter, romantic ballads and sleeping in the dirt with nothing but a sword for company. But most of all they learn about the many meanings of love.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel, but set in the same world as Sherwood Smith’s Wren books (different than the Crown Duel series world of Sartorias-Deles)

How did I get this book: Bought (ebook edition)

Why did I read this book: I’ve read and loved Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel duology (which I remember reading as a much younger girl and LOVING wholeheartedly), but for some bizarre reason have never read any of Ms. Smith’s other books. I have a copy of Coronets and Steel on my TBR somewhere, and then out of the blue, A Posse of Princesses showed up in a recommendation generator for my ereader. Since I’ve been in the mood for old school historical fantasy with a dash of romance, I couldn’t resist.

Review Note: The ebook edition (which I’ve reviewed below) corrects many errors from the original 2008 book, and has a new chapter near the end.

Review:

Princess Rhis of the small, craggy, but bountifully rich kingdom of Nym lives a charmed but rather boring life.

Though she’s intelligent, Rhis is not the heir to the throne and thus has little interest in learning all the subjects that make a queen (especially not when her stuffy elder sister-by-marriage insists on nitpicking the flaws in Rhis’s attention span and work ethic). Instead, the plain young princess is far more interested in the things that make her happy – music, dancing, and composing ballads (to varying degrees of success). Instead of studying politics or treatises, Rhis spends her time escaping from her daily chores and sneaking away to her private tower, spying the comings and goings of the kingdom with just her music and thoughts to keep her company.

When an invitation arrives from Crown Prince Lios of Vesarja to attend the celebration of his return from adventures abroad, Rhis can barely contain her excitement. All of the eligible young princes and princesses from neighboring kingdoms will be in attendance, and rumor has it that the young Crown Prince will be looking for a future bride. When Rhis arrives at the palace, she expects a whirlwind mix of dancing, music and frivolity – she doesn’t expect the friends she will make, the sides she will choose, the incredible adventure quest she’ll find herself spearheading, or falling in love.

Dudes. DUDES. I loved this delightful throwback to old school YA fantasy, coming of age novel. I’m happy to report that my memories of Crown Duel and Court Duel did not steer me wrong, because A Posse of Princesses is everything I was hoping for and then some. Resourceful heroine with agency? Check. Believable teenage characters? Yep. Fantastically varied (ethnically and culturally!) fantasy world? You got it. A dash of compelling, non-cheesy romance? Oh hell yes. I went into A Posse of Princesses expecting a diverting fantastical romp with a dash of romance, and Sherwood Smith delivered in spades.

First and foremost, I adored the heroine of this adventure, young, sixteen year old princess Rhis of Nym. Rhis is not your typical heroine – she’s neither beautiful (she’s rather plain with her stick skinny frame and mouse brown hair and eyes), nor is she remarkably intelligent (not that she’s lacking brains, but rather lacking direction and drive to apply herself to those subjects that don’t interest her). She is what one might expect of a sixteen year old princess from a sheltered kingdom; a dreamer, naive, a little dramatic and self-absorbed (but really, when you’re sixteen, who isn’t a little dramatic and self-absorbed?!), but her heart is in the right place. Instead of being particularly brave, or a warrior princess, or with a biting, unparalleled wit, Rhis is a heroine with an incredible sense of empathy. She cares for others and puts aside social expectation as she tries to see others in new and open-minded ways – and that is an incredibly cool quality in a YA heroine. Though Rhis might not start off as a heroine or with an aptitude for studying or adventure, she grows so much over the course of the book as her experiences and interactions with others shape her character. This is similarly awesome, and I loved her character arc from sheltered, slightly-superficial princess to a possible queen with adventure and a rescue mission under her belt.

Similarly, the supporting cast of royals in this book are wonderfully drawn. I loved the passionate, fickle nature of Princess Shera, the powerful warrior-minded Princess Taniva of the plains, and the foreign Princess Yuzhyu who tries so hard to master the language and fit in with a court that is largely happy to ignore her. Of course, what would the story be without Prince Lios and his trusty, sly scribe Dandiar? I won’t say much for that way lies spoilers – but I loved, loved the romance (even if it’s a bit predictable, so what! It’s done well. Sans super cheese. YES.). Heck, I even loved the ‘perfect princess’ Iardith – the epitome of beauty in this world with her dark skin and long dark hair, but a cruel streak as broad as her ego. I love that each of these characters, Iardith included, are humanized and we see through Rhis’s eyes why they might act the way they do.

From a plotting perspective, there is a degree of familiarity to the story – secret identities, courtly intrigue, romantic misunderstanding, and a daring rescue mission all factor prominently in the book. While some of the bigger twists lean towards the predictable, the writing is done so well and the characters so engaging that it hardly matters. From a worldbuilding point of view, I loved the setting and its varied cultures, from the mountainous (and resource rich) Nym, to the wild High Plains, to the warish kingdom of Damatras, to the distant shores of Ndai (look, there’s a map too!). There are many different realms here, each with their own variations and entanglements, and as A Posse of Princesses is just one standalone novel in a universe with other books and characters, I’ll be sure to revisit it soon.

Finally, can I just say how much I *loved* that Sherwood Smith takes a more cautious look at LOVE FOREVER at sixteen years old? Instead of ending with a teenage marriage and happily ever after immediately, there is a period of wait and angst, with both Rhis and her prince exploring what they want for themselves, apart from each other, before making any lifelong decisions. This is, in a word, awesome.

If you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. A whole lot. I’ll need to find and dust off my copy of Coronets and Steel very soon (and also search out the vast, sprawling waste of my TBR for a copy of Inda. I know it’s in there. Somewhere.). Absolutely recommended. Please, for the love of all that is good, do NOT judge this book by its cover.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

From the tower lookout in the royal castle–highest tower in all the kingdom of Nym–Princess Rhis peered down through the misting rain at a messenger on the road.

This rider slumped in the saddle of a long-legged lowlands race-horse that was now plodding up the steep road, occasionally hidden by tall stands of deep green fir. The messenger had to be from the lowlands. Anyone raised in Nym’s mountains knew that the only animal for the steep roads was a pony. Their sturdy bodies and short legs fared better on steep slopes. The rider’s cloak was crimson, a bright splash of color even in the gloom of a rainy afternoon. None of Nym’s royal messengers wore crimson cloaks. This one must be an equerry from the Queen of faraway Vesarja, she thought, and turned away from the window to resume pacing around the little room.

Once, many years ago, the old tower had been a lookout for Nym’s warriors, no longer necessary since the kingdom had established magical protection. Now the small, stone tower room had become Rhis’s private retreat.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: Starters by Lissa Price

Buy the Book:


Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, kobo, sony & book view cafe

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21 Responses to Book Review: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith

  1. Megan says:

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it! I love Sherwood Smith’s books, especially this one and “The Trouble with Kings”, and wish they get more attention than they do.

  2. The Inda books are great! If you have a weekend each to read them, that is – you can totally dive in to the reading and not come out for a whole day.

  3. Li says:

    I have the original paper version, but may have to spring for the revised ebook edition – I do remember quite liking this one. I have happily fallen into a YA fantasy glom (Andrea K Host), so am tempted to reread POSSE now!

    And INDA (and the rest of the series) is good. Much more epic fantasy than this one and the Crown Duel books.

  4. Kate Elliott says:

    I love Sherwood Smith’s novels, although I haven’t read this one (yet).

    The Inda books are very good. But I would like to alert you to her forthcoming BANNER OF THE DAMNED, coming in April, which I think is brilliant.

  5. Thea says:

    Hi everyone, thanks for the comments!

    Megan – Ana and I were *JUST* talking about The Trouble with Kings. We’re planning a joint review now :D Thanks for the rec!

    Victoria – Excellent! I love an all-engrossing fantasy novel. I vow to read Inda very soon. Thanks!

    Li – DO IT! Get the ebook, it’s super cheap (under $4 US) and so worth it. I’m excited to read a book on the epic fantasy end of the spectrum from Sherwood Smith. *adds to review calendar*

    Kate – EEE! Banner of the Damned looks fantastic, and with a rec from you, it’s as good as bought. *adds to radar and shopping cart* THANK YOU!

  6. Misti says:

    Great review. This book was just so cute and comforting somehow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Crown Duel is one of my keepers, I loved it so much. However, I had a hard time with Coronets and Steel and almost didn’t finish it and that made me kind of sad because I wanted to love it like these others. I can’t remember exactly why now, but it seems to me that I got bored with it.

  7. raych says:

    How can I resist a ‘DUDE’ that emphatic?

  8. Alex says:

    I love love love Crown Duel and Coronets and Steel, but I’ve been terribly remiss in checking out more of Sherwood Smith’s other work. Will have to remedy this asap.

  9. AnimeJune says:

    I’ve never read Sherwood Smith, but it looks like I will now!

  10. Charlotte says:

    A new chapter???? gee. People with ereaders are lucky!

    My recommendation for your next S.S. is Once A Princess–I bet you would get a kick out of it!

  11. mb says:

    Rhis is a heroine with an incredible sense of empathy. She cares for others and puts aside social expectation as she tries to see others in new and open-minded ways – and that is an incredibly cool quality in a YA heroine

    That is exactly the quality that made this book’s heroine so refreshing for me. She wasn’t a special snowflake w/extreme gifts and/or a maguffin, she was someone with people skills. And she had emotional intelligence. Rare and charming. Would like to see more of this type of heroine.

  12. Shannon H says:

    I highly recommend the Inda series, it is fabulous.

    Also, if you loved Crown Duel/Court Duel, she released an ebook version prequel that follows Shevraeth through his early years. I adored that as well, and it has definite coming of age themes to glom onto

  13. Shannon H says:

    (And the prequel is called A Stranger to Command. Important info to include)

  14. Chachic says:

    Yay Thea, so glad you enjoyed reading this one! I love Sherwood Smith’s books. My favorite is Crown Duel and the Sasharia en Garde novels (Charlotte recommended the first book in the duology: Once a Princess. It has a cliffhanger ending though so read it with the sequel: Twice a Prince). I also second the recommendation for the Crown Duel companion novel, A Stranger to Command, which is Vidanric’s story when he went off to study abroad.

  15. Liz says:

    I love Sherwood Smith! She can really nail YA novels like Crown Duel and Posse of Princesses, but then her epic fantasy like the Inda books are all great as well. There’s obviously so much written in this world of hers and yet we’ve only gotten to see a tiny bit. I’m so excited about Banner of the Damned coming out next month — she’s been dropping hints about this one for years!

  16. amy says:

    The Inda books are very good. But I would like to alert you to her forthcoming banner of the damned, coming in April, which I think is brilliant.

    http://goo.gl/dLQGm

  17. Estara says:

    Sherwood Smith LOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!! :mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen:
    You know if you enjoyed Crown Duel, there’s a lovely prequel that shows you how Shevraeth developed into who he is (AND connects his upbringing to Marloven-Hess, the country that the Inda books are set in – although they are 800 years before the Crown Duel timeline) – also released via BVC – A Stranger To Command.

    AND Sherwood recently released her collection of the various short stories she has written about Mel and Vindanric’s children so far – Remalna’s Children (although there’s another new story out which is in the ebook anthology The Feathered Edge (I think that is Lace & Blade 3 – retitled when the editor moved it from Norilana Books).

    And how about a duology in Sartorias-deles with a 20+ heroine (AND her mother!) who won’t take nonsense from anyone – Once a Princess and Twice a Prince – also known as Sasharia en Guarde.

    So much good stuff to enjoy ^^ – and Coronets & Steel and it’s follow up (there’s a third book in the works) are great, too.

  18. Jill says:

    “Coronets and Steel” is excellent, and I liked its sequel “Blood Spirits” as well. You’re going to love Kim and her really unique style.

    I’m also going to put in another vote for “Trouble with Kings.” I thought it was cheesy when I first started reading it, but I ended up loving it. It became one of my favorite Sherwood Smith books.

  19. Peta says:

    You had me at DUDES. Bought and on my kindle to read next :)

  20. Ewa says:

    I loved Crown Duel, and this sounds like it’s exactly the sort of read I’ve been craving recently. I too have been a bit remiss about following up on Crown Duel’s awesomeness as I haven’t been looking for Sherwood Smith’s other work, though I will now – and the links/tips in these comments have been very useful!

  21. [...] having said that, I recently reread Sherwood Smith‘s A POSSE OF PRINCESSES (after Thea’s review @ The Book Smugglers) and thought that had a perfect yet realistic ending for a YA [...]

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