Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Last Princess

The Last Princess

Galaxy Craze
For ages 14 and up
Little Brown, 2012   ISBN: 978-0316185486

Six years ago, for seventeen days, Earth went mad. Volcanoes erupted, earthquakes shook the land, and tsunamis roared across the oceans. For seventeen days Princess Eliza and her family took refuge in the bomb shelters under Buckingham Palace, and when they emerged the world had changed. The sky was filled with ash, and plant life began to die, as did animals. People began to starve and no one knew how many people had survived in other countries because communication systems were not working. England was cut off and on her own.

   Then Eliza’s beloved mother was murdered, poisoned by a young man called Cornelius Hollister. Doctors managed to save the baby she was carrying, but he too was poisoned and now Jamie is frail, sickly, and everyone knows that he will not live long.

   Every year the royal family hosts a ball, the Roses Ball, and even though the country is slipping into a state of complete chaos, Eliza’s father, the king, insists on holding the ball as usual. As Eliza starts to dance with her father, Cornelius Hollister and his New Guard troops attack the palace. The king is killed and Eliza’s big sister Mary and little Jamie are captured and taken away. Eliza is only saved because a soldier takes pity on her and lets her escape.

   Driven by a thirst for revenge, Eliza joins the New Guard. She watches as the new recruits are forced to fight to the death with prisoners, she listens to the screams of prisoners who know that they will soon be forced to dig their own graves before they are executed. Then she is helped by the same young soldier who spared her in the palace and she discovers that even in this hell on earth, affection and altruism can survive.

   Eliza gets away from the Home Guard and manages to find a way into the Tower, where her siblings are being kept prisoner. She finds Mary and Jamie, but can do nothing to save them. She is almost caught by Hollister and then she takes a terrible risk and jumps off the tower and into the moat, managing to make a getaway. Not knowing what else to do, Eliza heads for Scotland, for Balmoral Castle, where she hopes to find safety and perhaps a few people who will help her fight against Hollister and his army.

   In this gritty and often painful story the author transports us to a time when the law of the land, for many is to survive, even if it means becoming thieves and murderers. We see the cruelty that desperate humans are capable of, but we also see how one person can make a difference. Through Eliza’s actions we observe how important it is to take taking responsibility and apologize for past wrongdoings. Doing so allows people to turn away from anger to find a new purpose and to hope for a better future.