A Secret Princess “mini”-review // spoiler alert: this isn’t mini

I feel like I’m at my most unpredictable when I have the words “mini-review” in the heading. Like, are the reviews ACTUALLY mini? Is it mini because I’ve forgotten everything about the book? Did I even like the book? All these questions and more will be answered below*!

*hire me for advertising someone, i’m killing it!

👸 A Little Princess

🏡 A Secret Garden

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Set in England

A huge thank you to the publisher for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I have two thoughts: one, I feel incredibly guilty that I didn’t like this since the publisher was kind enough to allow me to read an e-arc of it and two…I must have been a very stupid child because my brain never processed that Sara Crewe wasn’t white💀 After doing some Googling, I am incredibly confused because I think that Sara is technically at least half Indian since she was born in India and I remember something about her mother being of color in the original Little Princess? But in this retelling and a couple of specific movies, they say she’s from the Philippines and is Filipino? Yet she’s usually portrayed in the movies or cover art for the book as white? WHAT IS SARA CREWE’S ETHNICITY. THE PEOPLE (by which I mean me) NEED TO KNOW.

oh gosh this is already starting off as my most chaotic mini-review ever. let’s just get on with the actual book, shall we?

A Secret Princess is basically a mashup of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. It follows Mary from the former book and Sara from the latter as they become best friends and dream of escaping their dreadful boarding school together. They also meet a boy named Cedric Erroll (and after even more Googling, I just discovered that he’s a character in another Frances Hodgeson Burnett book) and the three unlikely friends go through tragedy and laughter alike. I’m doing a poor job at explaining this but that’s because the Goodreads synopsis simultaneously SPOILS most of the book and gets one of the plot points wrong*. The description of the book on Goodreads has completely different romances from what I read in the book, but I think it’s mostly due to a slight name mix-up though.

*more on that later don’t worry. i somehow have more thoughts while i’m writing this review than i did while i was reading the entire book.

Okay, yes, I’m aware an ARC is an unfinished copy. In fact, the e-copy that I read (this has no effect on my review but I just wanted to mention it) had certain letters missing from every word that contained those letters. For example, if the letters f and e wouldn’t show up in the e-ARC a word like “friend” would look like ” ri nd”. Obviously, as a reviewer, I’m here to judge the content and not the format but such blatant errors did take me out of the story unfortunately. I’m sure they’ll be fixed in the final version though!

i know you’re sitting there thinking to yourself: when will the review actually start??? well here we go guys! finally!

I uh…kinda ended up skimming this book. I’m so disappointed because I adored this pair’s retelling of Little Women called Jo And Laurie but this? This was just not it. Let me explain.

First of all, I don’t really enjoy The Secret Garden. I do, however, adore A Little Princess. So naturally, I ended up more attached to Sara’s character than Mary’s. And yet…

And yet.

Is there a personality to be found in any of these characters? They’re supposed to be teenagers, and yet they all act like they’re twelve? Mary whines and is “strong and independent” and argues with Cedric* endlessly. She is unbearable. Sara is kind which is a bit boring at times, but at least she’s a relatively interesting character in how she deals with the world and prejudice, since she’s depicted as being part Filipino. Cedric? I got nothing on him. I thought he was just a knock-off Colin until twenty minutes ago.

*i keep mentally pronouncing his name “cee-dric” because of sofia the first💀

My point is that while the authors found great ways to enhance each character’s strengths in their previous retelling, these particular characters are mostly too flat and one-dimensional to do anything with. Mary especially irks me because WHAT IS THIS LACK OF MATURITY??? YOU ARE LITERALLY SIXTEEN. READ A MAP AND OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKES INSTEAD OF BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE FOR THEM. She also had this annoying habit of trying to fix everything??? This girl acted like a teenage boy trying to comfort you smh.

Also the plot is literally molasses. It’s just the stories of the two books thrown together and paced slowly. 50% of the plot is literally described in the Goodreads synopsis! You can’t blame me for skimming when I’ve already read a condensed version of what’s happening and going to happen! Retellings are supposed to breathe new life and add interesting twists to old stories, not be lesser retreads.

the romance. good gracious. good golly. my oh my.

THERE IS NO ROMANCE. On the one hand, we have the irrevocably loud yet loyal, undoubtedly stupid Mary paired with the occasionally clever Cedric (who again is such a flat character I thought he was a version of a character from the original Secret Garden who just doesn’t exist in this universe I guess). If that’s not obnoxious enough, we get the most insta-love romance between Sara Crewe and Dickon. Two days go by* and he’s already proposing. There’s so little chemistry here that you couldn’t light something on fire if you wanted to. It’s like the authors just randomly decided that Cedric and Mary were good together because they argued a lot, but they wanted to keep Dickon in the story and couldn’t leave Sara out on her own, so they just threw this romance together? Which doesn’t even make sense when you consider the ending. This isn’t a romantic story. This felt like a couple of twelve year olds “falling in love” and swearing themselves to be true until the day they grow up and realize what real love is.

*or some abysmally small number of days. time flies when you’re skimming.

Uh…anyways. That’s it I think? When I sat down to write this review I thought to myself “yeah I’m gonna have two paragraphs tops because I skimmed so much and I have not a single thought in my head”. This review is over 1000 words long. I’m still calling this a mini-review because I’m too lazy to change my introduction but wow. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a subconscious rant. I would recommend this if you love Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s stories, or if you’re a younger reader who wants a mashup retelling. Tell me: have you read any FHB books? This came out June 28th, and you can order it and add it to Goodreads and Storygraph!

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5 thoughts on “A Secret Princess “mini”-review // spoiler alert: this isn’t mini

  1. It’s too bad you weren’t able to enjoy this book. On the bright side, it resulted in a great “mini” review! I had a lot of fun reading this and immediately went on memory lane when you mentioned sofia the first 😂

    Liked by 2 people

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