Tag Archives: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Wisdom’s Kiss

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

My rating: 4 of 5

You might say that there were many different things–different people’s lives interacting–that ultimately contributed to the debacle that later became known as Wisdom’s Kiss. The Princess Wisdom (better known as Dizzy) herself, for one, what with her tendency to belie her name and throw herself headlong into drama and adventure. The Duke Roger whom she was to wed, as well, although he was truly a pawn in the hands of his overbearing and scheming mother. Then there was the dowager queen Benevolence, Dizzy’s grandmother, who with her far-too-intelligent cat Escoffier discovered the schemes of said Duchess. Less immediately obvious, yet equally influential, were the presence of Trudy, a young kitchen maid with second sight; Tips, her childhood sweetheart; Felis el Gato, Tips’ mentor and a grand performer; and the Emperor of the whole land himself. But it was the interweaving of these individual lives that allowed even the possibility of such an event, one that would shape the course of the land for generations to come.

I’ve enjoyed Murdock’s writing before in her story Princess BenWisdom’s Kiss actually ties in with this earlier novel, although it is certainly not necessary to read the one to enjoy the other. They’re more loosely connected tales rather than anything like a series. Wisdom’s Kiss is really fascinating in the way it’s written. You don’t really get any straight-up narrative, although the sections taken from Trudy’s memoirs read essentially like a regular novel. But for the most part, the story is told in letters and diary entries and, yes, even articles taken from an encyclopedia. It’s honestly enough to be a bit hard to piece together where the story is really going at times, although everything comes together nicely by the end. And I did enjoy the different perspectives and the way the different characters’ personalities came through from the different sources. It was interesting–and something I haven’t seen done much–to see the same character from multiple different perspectives, including their own; it gives a different appreciation for the individual. As for the writing style itself, I’ve heard the author’s writing described in the past as “frothy,” and I can’t honestly think of a better word to describe it. There’s a lightness and wit to it, even in the sections where things seem dark and awful–but in this particular story, there’s also a busyness and a constant activity from all sides that I might almost better compare to the fizz you get when you first open a soda. I think that this is one of those stories that would tend be polarizing; you would either love all the novelty and the different perspectives or it would drive you mad trying to keep up and make sense of it all. Personally, however, I enjoyed Wisdom’s Kiss and look forward to reading more by this author.

Note: It’s implied at the end of the story that this is a retelling of Puss in Boots . . . and I guess it sort of it, but I would never have caught it if it hadn’t been mentioned directly. For what that’s worth.


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Princess Ben

Author: Catherine Gilbert MurdockPrincess Ben

My rating: 5 of 5

The Princess Benevolence (better known as Ben) has lived most of her life free from the restraints of court life, protected by her beloved mother–a fact which Ben’s equally unrestrained girth supports. Everything changes, however, when Ben’s mother and her uncle, the king, are brutally murdered and Ben’s father goes missing, leaving Ben heir apparent. Her aunt Sophia, serving as Queen Regent until Ben reaches her majority, begins pruning Ben to be ready to rule, putting her through all sorts of lessons and curbing her diet to an extent that Ben finds inordinately cruel. But Ben is not exactly a willing victim, particularly when she discovers a magically guarded room hidden above her own tower room . . . a room that has been hiding all sorts of magical secrets that it now begins to disclose to Ben.

I very much enjoyed reading Princess Ben. It reminds me a great deal of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, in that it is a fantasy that reads and feels like a historical novel for a large portion of the story. Indeed, although the names of the particular kingdoms were unfamiliar, for the first third of the story, I had no real reason to believe this was not a historical novel focusing on some small medieval kingdom. It would have been an excellent story, just as a historical novel, too. The characters are well developed, growing, and full of surprises; the political intrigue is suspenseful and convincing; and the development of the kingdoms and their history is equally interesting and convincing. But then, around a third of the way through, Ben discovers all this magic that’s secreted away, and it becomes clear that the story is in actuality, a fantasy. And it works beautifully as that also. The magic suits the setting and enhances the story without diminishing the importance of all the other set up that has already been placed. Furthermore, although Ben has magic at her disposal, she comes into situations where she can’t use it and must still rely on her strong will and wits. Also, I really appreciated the small, deft allusions to numerous classic fairy tales that were scattered throughout the story without ever becoming anything significant . . . almost as a hint that this will become a fantasy, for those sharp enough to catch it. Princess Ben is a story that I greatly enjoyed and will definitely read again–highly recommended.

Note: This is kind of random, but I appreciated finding a fantasy that dealt with obesity in a practical and appropriate way–not a topic much touched on in your usual fantasy novels


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