I have been burned so many times by fairytale retellings, but this series is one that keeps me hoping that the next retelling I read may actually be good. I discovered this series around 2007 (at the time, only five of the books were released, which is also how many I’ve read), and fell in love with it.
Saying that, I haven’t read this series in five or more years. And, as one of my bookish New Year’s Resolutions for 2019, I wanted to reread some of my old favorites to see if my feelings have changed about them. I read the first four books in the last two days. Surprisingly, the first book only took me about an hour to read. In fact, I probably finished this series in about 5 hours total. So, as you can guess, it’s a pretty simple series.
Before I get to the individual books review, I want to talk about the series as a whole. The first four books follow Princess Emma (full name Emeralda) and Prince Eadric. While the first book is a twist on the original Frog Prince fairytale, the next three books are original stories of completely different adventures the two go on. In the fourth book, they finally marry.
The fifth book is about Emma’s aunt Grassina when she was fourteen. I own this book, but I’m not a fan. There are also four more books of the series (Books 6-9), which I have not read, mostly because none of them feature Emma and the series didn’t really feel the same without her. But, from what I understand, these four books are about Emma’s daughter Millie. I may eventually read these books, but not yet.
Now that I’m done with that ridiculously long introduction, let me give a basic review of each of these books. Also, SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL THESE FOUR BOOKS!
The Frog Princess
Princess Emeralda is a clumsy princess with a horrible laugh who wants nothing more than to escape her life and not have to marry the horrible Prince Jorge. She walks into a swamp near her castle, only to meet a frog who claims to be a prince under a spell, and begs her to kiss him. But when she kisses him, she is the one who turns into a frog, and together they must find an antidote.
While I liked this book even as an adult, I liked it for much different reasons. As a thirteen-year-old, I liked the romance and the adventure. As an adult, I preferred all the ridiculous actions of the characters. This book is very simplistic, often bordering on silly. And yet I like how it breaks so many tropes usually found in fairy tales. For example, Emma isn’t a perfect, beautiful princess, and instead awkward and insecure. Eadric isn’t a handsome, typical prince either. He is immature, and described as short and slightly pudgy.
There is also a surprising amount of important lessons in this book, that as a child I didn’t even notice. The idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” type thing. Eadric is rude to a witch, and gets turned into a frog. Emma is kind to the animals captured in the witch’s home they go to find a reversal to the curse, and in return several of the animals help her, including the massive snake Fang. Emma is insecure in the beginning, but by the end she has learned to step out of her bubble of fear and experience new challenges. She also was horrible with spells in the beginning, but through necessity of survival successfully works spells.
This one takes place immediately after the first book. At the end of the first book, Emma’s aunt Grassina (who is also a witch) found her beloved Haywood, who her mother turned into an otter out of spite. Emma’s grandmother is actually the victim of a family curse from generations ago, when her ancestor Hazel offended a witch and was cursed that, if she smelt flowers after her sixteenth birthday, she would be turned into a cruel ugly hag. Anyway, that story is for the next book. In this book, Emma and Eadric try to help Grassina turn Haywood back into a human, while also having issues with Emma’s magic. Every time she sneezes, both she and Eadric turn back into frogs.
This is the longest book of the series, nearly three hundred pages long (for reference, the first book was only two hundred pages and the other two are under 250 pages). This is also probably my favorite book of the series just because of how many interesting places they visit. They travel to an island where a bunch of witches are being imprisoned, and then to find a dragon, an underwater city, and many more interesting places.
The one complaint that I have as the story continues, which becomes more clear in this book, is how mostly useless Eadric is. As Emma is going through massive growth in understanding her family as well as her magic, Eadric is just going along with it. Once in a while he may come up with the good idea, but for the most part he is simply there to eat and give a couple sarcastic remarks. I didn’t mind it as much in the first book, but as the series continued, I kept hoping that Eadric would mature as Emma had. This is the main complaint I have about this book in particular and the series in general.
Once Upon a Curse
At the end of the last book, Haywood was turned back into a human, but at a terrible price. Grassina was exposed to flowers and Emma’s family curse worked on her. Now, Emma is almost sixteen and, before she agrees to marry Eadric, she is determined to break her family’s curse. So back she travels in time to when the curse was first enacted, along with Eadric, determined to cure her family.
While I enjoyed this book, I definitely prefer the first two. While a lot of new characters are introduced in the past time, none of the characters in the more modern age are developed further. Like I said in my review of the last book, Emma is so much more mature and while Eadric is described as getting older (he’s taller and more handsome), I still wished to see more maturing of his character.
Saying that, the plot is incredibly fun. It’s interesting to read the books back-to-back, because I noticed so many hints in the first and second books which worked out in the second and third books. I’m not sure if Baker had a plan for the entire series when she wrote the first one, but it really feels like she did. And this one has an extremely happy ending, as the curse is broken and Emma and Eadric are now free to marry. Which brings us to the final book.
No Place For Magic
Finally, Emma and Eadric are about to get married, traveling to Eadric’s country for the wedding. There are just two problems: Eadric’s little brother has been kidnapped by trolls, and the people of Eadric’s country hate magic. As you might have guessed by the previous books of the series, Emma is very much a witch, which means she has to hide her powers while trying to save the kingdom and marry her froggy prince charming.
And we finish the fourth book with a happy conclusion. This book is fun because we finally get Emma and Eadric’s wedding. On the other hand, I still felt as if Eadric could have changed more as the story progressed. In this book, I liked seeing a different country than the one we are used to in Emma’s land. To have everyone apprehensive to magic is foreign in this series so far, so I liked how different Eadric’s country is portrayed.
Also, with all these books, it is the journeys which truly shine. In all but the third book, the characters embark on difficult quests to solve problems. I’ve always loved this about the fantasy genre in general, but also this series in particular.
For those who didn’t know, this was actually the book which was adapted in 2009 by Disney, calling it The Princess and the Frog. When I heard they were making this book into a movie, I was thrilled, until I learned that the only similarity between the two is that, when the girl kisses the frog, she turns into a frog as well. But nothing else is similar.
Part of the reason I love this series is because of the nostalgia of when I read it as a child. But even so, if I had read it for the first time as an adult, I still think I would have enjoyed it. The humor is the best part, as are all the unique characters.
Have you heard of this series? Or watched the movie inspired by it? What is your favorite fairytale retelling? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,