This was one of my most anticipated books of the year because I completely adored To Kill a Kingdom back when I read the ARC in 2018, and I think that was one of the books that sparked my love for fairytale retellings. However, four years later, I no longer agree with a majority of the points in that review and the things that made me fall in love with the book have faded, and reading Princess of Souls really reminded me of the flaws. I think it’s going to be difficult for me to write a detailed review of the book without comparing it to To Kill a Kingdom, so I am just going to commit to the comparisons.
Princess of Souls is promoted as a Rapunzel-inspired fantasy romance, but I would not recommend picking up this book if you are looking for a retelling. Our main character, Selestra, has long hair which is cut off early on in the book and she is living in a tower for the first handful of chapters that she narrates. She also has a standoff against her ‘evil’ mother in the finale. For me, this is the extent of the similarities. So yes, you could describe it as ‘Rapunzel-inspired’, but it’s incredibly loose inspiration, especially in comparison to many of the fairytale-inspired works that are popular right now.
Both books begin with the teenage female main character leaving a home environment and meeting a charismatic male main character and his slightly less charismatic best friend. In Princess of Souls, Selestra is joined by her own charming best friend so the two male and two female characters can be coupled off nicely by the end of the book. Both books spend some time travelling on a boat to a port city location which might be the same city but it’s been so long since I read the first book that I no longer remember that detail. During this time, there is a lot of hatred between the main characters that is a long stronger than reasons I can justify and some banter as we begin a slowish-burn, kind-of-enemies to almost-lovers arc. Princess of Souls has some of the travelling and banter in a hot air balloon which I genuinely found to be an exciting addition to a fantasy world. Both books arrive at the third location and begin a final journey to find the object that the male main character has been hunting for years. There is some kind of argument between the main characters about hidden identities or secrets. Both books end with the female main character confronting her toxic mother.
The books are promoted as being part of the same universe, but that was actually one of the elements that I found different and enjoyable: there is very little – if any – overlap between the locations and there are no cameos from the To Kill a Kingdom cast that I noticed. I liked that Princess of Souls could stand on its own in a sense and could be enjoyable for readers who are completely new to the author’s work without expecting appearances from another book.
I was going to spend some time here talking about the character dynamics, but I don’t think I have anything to add that hasn’t already been covered. The female and male protagonists are very similar to the ones in To Kill a Kingdom. There are fewer crew members this time, so the side characters had more room to grow, although I don’t feel they added any substance to the plot other than comic relief and fleshing out the main characters’ backstories. There is a lot of banter and very few serious or emotional moments to add some dimension to their personalities.
I do think that Princess of Souls is the superior of the two books, although I don’t think any book can top the majesty of To Kill a Kingdom‘s opening line. The plot itself also hits more of my niche interests, and I was a lot more invested in the main character’s arc, even if I found her a little bland as a character. There were also some descriptions of a sentient haunted forest that tugged at my soul as horror influences and forests in general are very exciting to me.
In summary, if you’ve already read To Kill a Kingdom, you’ve pretty much already read a majority of Princess of Souls. I would not recommend picking up the latter unless you either haven’t read the former or adored it with your whole heart. However, ignoring any other books, Princess of Souls was an enjoyable fairytale-inspired adventure and slow-burn romance with an enemies-to-lovers dynamic.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 stars)