Monday, May 13, 2019

Review - Princess Arebeena and the Crystal Fairies

Princess Arebeena and the Crystal Fairies
by Fiona Boyd
Date: 2019
Publisher: Troubador Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 38
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Welcome to the magical Kingdom of Treenesta, governed by King David and Queen Trixie!

This is the first book in the Crystal Fairy series, which features seven feisty sisters with a touch of attitude. This story is set around the day of Princess Arebeena’s birthday where Princess Arebeena is tasked with a treasure hunt. Accompanied by her best friend Isabella, Princess Arebeena sets out on an exciting adventure looking for her missing tiara… but what else will she find along the way? As you travel through the land of Treenesta, you will meet some interesting animal characters, including Fern the frog, Saffi the barn owl and Dreeva the dragon. Find out how Princess Arebeena makes friends with the seven crystal fairies: Ruby, Amber, Citrine, Emerald, Sapphire, Amethyst and Rose.

Will the Princess find her tiara? And after such a tiring quest, how will she get back to the Royal Palace in time for her birthday celebrations? The storyline encourages a positive attitude, bravery and emphasises the power of friendship, and is beautifully illustrated at each step with detailed, full-colour paintings. It will be enjoyed by children aged 5-7 years.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

To be fair, I'm not the audience for this. It says so right in the synopsis! However, I think it's also kind of presumptuous to state that this book "will be enjoyed by children aged 5-7 years"; while I'm sure some kids that age will enjoy it, others will likely be bored by the lacklustre plot and bland illustrations.

The book isn't even about the fairies. It's about Princess Arebeena and her parents' "treasure hunt". Part of my problem here is that, due to the format of the e-book, I couldn't see much of the illustrations, except for a sliver of the top of each one... so I didn't get to actually read the invitation from Princess Arebeena's parents regarding the treasure hunt. (I gather, from reading the rest of the text, that her parents stole her own tiara and hid it in a dragon's cave for her to find. What kind of twisted mind game is that?)

Anyway, Princess Arebeena and her friend Isabella take a break from brushing their hair to go in search of the tiara. They ask an owl who lives in a lollipop tree (because... of course; we can't have a self-published picture book without some sort of ridiculous, cloying plot point that children are supposed to love) and the owl directs them to some pebbles. When the girls find the right one, it turns out to be the home of the crystal fairies, who are all named after precious jewels in rainbow colours. The fairies then lead the girls to the dragon's cave, where they find the tiara without too much trouble (the dragon is an employee of the king and queen, and not a threat). Of course, the tiara has been bejewelled, so Ruby (the red crystal fairy) waves her magic wand and turns Princess Arebeena's pink dress red to match. Then the dragon takes them back to the castle and they party. The end.

I just can't get excited about a plot like this. There's no real danger, there's no conflict (other than the stupid task set by Princess Arebeena's parents), and the whole thing just seems really shallow. It's all about finding this tiara. I don't know anything about the characters. Is Princess Arebeena a good person? What about the king and queen? (I suspect not, if they like to steal their daughter's possessions and then send her into dragon caves to look for them.) Not every picture book needs to have a deep moral message, but I kind of wanted more than just a couple of vapid girls searching for a pretty piece of jewellery.

Aside from the snooze-inducing plot, the writing is pretty weak. The girls come across as wooden, and they vacillate from being wimpy to just going with the flow (I don't think I'd consider any of their actions particularly brave). One character smirks her speech at one point, and there are plenty of other dialogue tags that are more obtrusive than informative.

The illustrations... To keep it simple, let me just say that they look like something that came out of a middle-school art class. (What I can see of them, anyway.) Princess Arebeena looks like Barbie, and appears to be an adult. The pictures don't really match the text in that way, because what adult woman spends the day searching for lollipop trees and trying to find a tiara that her parents stole? Any self-respecting woman would've been walking up to King David and Queen Trixie and saying, "I don't have time for this, Mum and Dad. I've got a lot to do today, especially since the rulers of this kingdom apparently have nothing better to do than play silly games."

This book is just really weak. While the aspect of the seven colour-coded fairies could've been interesting, they're little more than an embellishment on a boring story. Even their presence doesn't make this into anything more than a bland, superficial slog of a read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.17 out of 5

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