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10 February 2023

#Review - Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Cover for audio book "Princess Floralinda and the Forty Flight tower" by Tamsyn Muir. In a craggy wilderness, a sinister tower stands on a rocky outcrop. Lights are lit in the upper windows. It has a pointed roof. Settling on the roof is a spiny dragon.
Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower
Tamsyn Muir (narrated by Moira Quirk)
Recorded Books Inc, 30 November 2020
Available as: Audio, 4 hours 9 minutes
Source: Audio subscription
ASIN: B08N2L23D4

I listened to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower as an audio book.

I have to admit that I listened to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower because I've been reading Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb series as audio (if that makes sense) so it popped up as a recommendation. Keen to see what else Muir had written (and given Quirk's excellent work on those stories) I downloaded it.

The first things to say is that this is a very different - and simpler - story than the Locked Tomb books. It's basically a fairy-story crossed with a D&D session, as Floralinda, abandoned at the top of her tower by a witch, gives up on a prince rescuing her and has to fight her way down to the bottom, overcoming a different monster on every level. She shows great ingenuity doing this and it's fun seeing her outwit worse and worse monsters and accumulate some useful resources.

In doing this Floralinda also meets and befriends a fairy with broken wings, and learns a lot about being practical, strong and un-Princesslike.

Then things turn dark.

Through the progression of monsters, variously despatched by skill, guile and luck, we see a slow transformation of the princess. This is reflected not only in her fights with monsters but in other respects too - her developing relationship with that fairy, and her attitude to her own life. What with injuries, holdups while weapons are honed or resources gathered, and close scrapes with injury or death, there is both time and cause for reflection by Floralinda on what she wants. 

And when she decides what that is, there is nobody who can stop her.

One of the really fun things about this book was seeing Floralinda develop into somebody who can honestly admit that there are bad things she must do, and other bad things that she wants to do and that she is going to do. And then seeing her emerge as a person who can put her own life, and that change, into wider context and decide that perhaps, no, some of those are things she won't do. While she does develop in skill and strength, it's also a moral process, a coming of age, that makes her question who she is and what she wants from life.

If that makes this book sound over solemn and freighted with Messages, it really isn't, it is immensely pacy, enjoyable to read and really funny, if inevitably gruesome in places. While it was a bit of a shock at first to hear Quirk's palate of voices used in a different context from her Locked Tomb readings, and I did initially associate them with the characters form those stories, the personalities here are very different and very quickly came to stand apart.

Recommended, and hearing this made me realise afresh what a wide-ranging and flexible writer Muir is. 

You can get the audio of Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower here.

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