The Princess Trials by Cordelia Castel was pitched to me as “The Selection meets The Hunger Games”
I got to say, I was skeptical. Because those blurbs are rarely true.
But let me tell you…
The Princess Trials delivered and more than exceeded my every hope and dream!
This is one amazing book. If you’re a fan of The Selection series by Kiera Cass. Pay attention! If you loved Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, listen up!
Take everything you loved about those two series, mash up together, add a full spoon of awesomeness, and a major cup of adrenaline and you get The Princess Trials.
The Princess Trials Review
In full disclosure, Cordelia is a friend of mine, but that in no way will affect my review. In fact, despite knowing each other for over two years, I’ve never read one of her books.
When she offered me an ARC of The Princess Trials, I knew now was as good a time as ever.
The prince of Phangloria has come of age and it’s time for the country once again to host its Princess Trials. A way for the commoners like Zea-Mays Calico, a Harvester, to have a shot at ascending beyond her birth and having an impact for the better in a corrupt society.
Sound like The Selection?
Except the government of Phangloria is wickedly corrupt, and the Harvesters have faced enough oppression. They’ve had enough. And so they’ve formed a rebel alliance called the Red Runners to take out the monarchy and establish a democracy in its place.
There’s only one problem, The Red Runners have never been inside the palace, and they have no idea how to attack to minimize loss of life and increase their chances of killing the Royals.
That’s where Zea comes in. She is asked to infiltrate the Princess Trials as a spy, make it through to the palace round, find a secret entrance, and report back to the Red Runners. But most importantly, she can’t fall in love with the Prince.
This is a post apocalyptic society where most of the United States is underwater, what remains is a barren, radioactive wasteland. A few settlements still exist with the use of technology to keep the air and land pure, but precious resources like water are rationed.
There is very much a caste system in place, with your Echelon being more important the closer you are to the Oasis, or the Capitol.
The Princess Trials is a heavily televised event with special twists and cruel jokes meant to entertain the Nobles at the expense of the lives of the girls who enter the trials.
What Zea doesn’t know is the games are rigged from the start, and whoever is editing the footage is out to get her. When an off-hand comment gains the attention of Prince Kevon, she suddenly finds herself his favorite and the target of not only the other contestants, but some nefarious up-to-no-gooders as well.
Despite many injustices that befall her, like an assassination attempt, or being the only witness to a murder, the cameras spin the events to make her look like the perpetrator.
Despite the corruption in the government, Prince Kevon wants what’s best for his people. He was born into power, and his rulership is assured. It’s the Nobles beneath him that pine for their place of authority and are willing to do anything necessary to climb one more rung the ladder.
At first, Zea plans to avoid Prince Kevon at all costs. She wants to keep her head low, quietly advance, find what she needs in the palace and purposely fail to go home so that the coup can begin.
But she quickly discovers he won’t leave her alone, continually inviting her to private alone time, which only raises her further into the spotlight.
She soon discovers the prince isn’t at all what she thought he was, and she begins to wonder if removing the monarchy is the right move after all.
But the Red Runners are monitoring her, and they’ll know if her convictions begin to waiver. And if they do, they might storm the palace anyway, killing Kevon in the process and ruining any shot Zea might have at fixing the Harvesters plight.
There are four major trials that Zea participates in throughout Book 1 of The Princess Trials. The first is medical screening, to make sure she is not with child or infertile. From the girls that pass, only four from her city will be chosen out of thousands.
The second is a televised audition where a Caesar Flickerman type character interviews all the ladies and a popular vote is taken to see who advances to the first real trial.
The third event is a competition that challenges the ladies to complete a task, and the first person to finish gets an exclusive date with Prince Kevon. I’ll not spoil any of the details. No elimination takes place here.
Following the above events and a special ball, there is once again a culling of the numbers by popular vote.
And finally there’s an adrenaline pumping explosive moment that will rock your socks off.
The Differences & Similarities
Unlike The Selection, eliminating your opponents by any means necessary is highly encouraged. There are no nice girls, and everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, is out for themselves.
Shame them, embarrass them, manipulate them, yes, even kill them. If you can eliminate the competition, the crown is in the proverbial bag.
Like The Selection, there is romance and a competition to become the next princess.
Unlike The Selection, the competition is in the hands of the viewers, and when the media is constantly spinning their own tale, many times outright fabricating events that never happened, the odds are stacked against our heroine.
Like The Hunger Games, there is a rebel alliance, and they want to topple the way of life for those who reap the benefits of the oppressed.
Unlike The Hunger Games, participation is the games is voluntary and death is not the expected outcome, though it is a high possibility.
Like the Hunger Games, changes to the rules may come in many unexpected and shocking ways.
Get this book.
You need this book.
I promise you’re going to love it.
I stayed up until 2 AM reading this book because I couldn’t put it down. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t give up my sleep easily. I hoard my hours of sleep like a dragon hoards gold, and for me to sacrifice it for The Princess Trials is high praise indeed.
Looking for more great reviews?
Check out my review of Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim.