Craze, G. (2012). The last princess. New York: Poppy. ISBN: 9780316185486
Annotation: After simultaneous natural disasters have destroyed modern society and left England isolated, the princess Eliza has to find a way to save her family from a crazed dictator who is determined to eliminate the British monarchy.
Reaction: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The plot is fast paced and easy to read, and I kind of enjoyed that Eliza is a descendant of the current queen of England some unknown generations removed. Eliza is a strong heroine who does what it takes to survive not just the devastation of the land itself, but also the crazed dictator who wants to kill her entire family and crown himself as king.
I really like the premise of the book and the way Craze humanizes the British monarchy; despite Eliza being a fictional princess, writing her as a descendant of the current queen sort of makes me rethink how I view the royals as distant, practically mythological figures. The world building in this book is also good. Craze transforms the UK into a terrifying landscape that it almost familiar, which is a little heartbreaking, to be honest.
Unfortunately, the prologue of the book set my expectations a little low. In the first three pages, the queen, Eliza’s mother, dies of poisoning after receiving a gift basket from an unknown sender and eating the practically extinct fruit. OF COURSE the mystery fruit is poisoned! Are you new to being royalty? I’m not the queen, and even I know that you don’t eat fruit when you don’t know where it comes from! After that, I was prepared for all sorts of ridiculous and terrible plot points. Thankfully, the book pretty much only goes up from there. But while the story is engaging (and not terrible!), it’s also not super surprising. To anyone paying attention to any book ever written, the reveal of Wesley’s, Eliza’s savior and protector, true identity comes as no shock. It’s not badly done, it’s just not the huge surprise it’s supposed to be in the story.
Cornelius Hollister is a villain whose actions are horrific, but the character himself nor his motivations are super well defined. The best explanation we get in this book is when he tells Eliza that he does what he does because her family feasted while the people starved, though he is not trying to set himself up as a benevolent equalizer of the people. His regime puts one more in the mind of Hitler, causing the common folk to rally around Eliza and fight to reestablish her the Windsor line as monarchy.
My criticisms aside, I did genuinely like this book, and I might even read the sequel when it comes out. I read this book in about two days, probably totaling less than twelve hours reading time, so anyone looking for fast, intriguing post-apocalyptic YA novels should definitely pick this one up.
Author’s Website: None