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We Are Not Amused

Ever heard of the Victorian Era? This girl, like, invented that.

We Are Not Amused

BOOK REPORT for Victoria: May Blossom of Britannia by Anna Kirwan

Cover Story: Bottle Blonde
BFF Charm: *shrug*
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: The V. Young Victoria
Bonus Factors: The British Monarchy
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award
Relationship Status: Grudging Friendship

Royal Diaries Drinking Game

Take a sip when:
• There is talk of a betrothal
• The protagonist references the diary concept (i.e. apologizes for not writing often enough, has to find a hiding place for the diary, explains why she's writing in it to begin with, etc.)
• The protagonist wonders what it would be like to be a "normal girl"
• There’s a ball
• There's a trip to the marketplace
• Somebody makes a chess metaphor
• Somebody becomes deathly ill (pour one out if they die!)
• Somebody is poisoned or strangled or in some other way Ye Olde Murdered
• You wish you were a princess

Take two sips when:
• The protagonist becomes officially betrothed
• The protagonist suspects someone of reading her diary
• It's the protagonist's birthday
• Secret nighttime adventure!
• Obvious historical foreshadowing
• The protagonist becomes deathly ill
• You're really glad you're NOT a princess

Take a shot when:
• The protagonist gets hitched
• Another Royal Diarist is mentioned

Cover Story: Bottle Blonde

This is a perfectly lovely illustration, but Victoria's hair color just confuses me. Why is she so blonde? I guess her hair may have been lighter when she was younger, like many people's, but even then I'd still call it more of a light brunette. The Victoria on this cover is not a light brunette. I don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does. It DOES.

The Deal:

Victoria is second in line for the throne of Great Britain, but doesn't know it. Seriously. There's a whole scene where she realizes she's been doing math wrong this whole time, and whoops, turns out she's two frail old men away from being Queen. That seems totally ridic, but then I looked it up, and apparently it's historically accurate. Let this be a lesson, kids: if you do well in math class, you might suddenly find out that you're the presumptive heir to some European monarchy. If you don't do your algebra homework, you'll never know! (Of course, this did not prove true for Mia Thermopolis.)

Oh, and some other stuff happens, too, I guess.

BFF Charm: *shrug*

I know it's a fool's errand to judge people in the past by the standards of the present, but full disclos.: I am not the biggest fan of Queen Victoria as a historical figure. All the repression morality and straight-up genocide imperialism just doesn't do it for me.

But I'm also fully aware that 90% of the reason I'm such a fan of Elizabeth I, who also did her fair share of questionable things, is because I was introduced to her at an impressionable age through the Royal Diaries. (Same with Thomas Jefferson and the movie 1776, for the record.) So I tried to approach this book without bias, to let Victoria the RD character have her say as an entirely distinct person from Victoria the RL "character."

And she was...okay. Like Marie Antoinette, she struck me as particularly young, but without Marie Antoinette's sweetness. In the last forty pages or so Victoria turned into a bit of a Debbie Downer, but just managed to stay on this side of "bearable." (I get that she has problems, but Anastasia managed to be more positive about the Russian Revolution than Victoria about having to take an exam.) I cycled through a bunch of options for a BFF charm I could give Victoria—maybe? eventually? yay? meh? big sister?—and eventually I just had to shrug. Victoria, it's not you, it's me. (Frankly, just once, I'd like the book character to give me a BFF charm. Why am I always the one to define our relationship?)

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

No swoon to be had, not even for ready money. There is a great opportunity to raise a glass to the "obvious historical foreshadowing" rule of the Royal Diaries Drinking Game when Victoria plays a "the next guy to walk through that door is your future husband" game. Cue a portrait of Albert being carried into the room, and Victoria concluding that the game clearly doesn't work.

Talky Talk: The V. Young Victoria

I tend to prefer the older Royal Diaries protagonists (~14-18) to the younger ones (~9-13). I can forgive Victoria for being nine years old at the beginning of this book, though, because if Anna Kirwan had started it much later, she would've brushed right up against Queen Victoria's actual diaries, begun when she was thirteen. As essentially prequel fanfic, Victoria is both more interesting than the original (RL Vic wrote a lot of Point A to Point B stuff in her diaries) and less (pre-bowdlerization Vic was apparently pretty saucy re: sexy Prince Albert).

Sŏndŏk, as we all remember, framed its diary entries as the princess writing messages to her grandmother's spirit. Victoria uses a similar tactic, in which entries are kinda sorta addressed to Victoria's absent half-sister, Feodora. It's not brought up often and it's not really consistently employed, so when the framing does come up, it feels a bit jarring and unnecessary.

One last thing: Victoria does a lot of abbreviating, especially with "v" for "very." Some people might find this annoying, but as I totes do the same thing myself, I couldn't v. well judge! Maybs I should form a club with Victoria and Penny Hartz: peeps who love to abbrev.

Bonus Factor: The British Monarchy

We've had one British queen in the Royal Diaries series already (and two borderline cases), but Queen Victoria was the first "modern" British monarch, closer to the way we think of them today. And I've already said I'm no monarchist, but if Prince Harry showed up on my doorstep tonight and proposed...I'd make like Phoebe and change my beliefs.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Guardianship

It's truly sad how often I have to "award" this factor to Royal Diaries books. Victoria's mother is under the thumb of Captain Conroy, a former employee of Victoria's late father. Together they educate Victoria under the "Kensington System," which means isolating her from most other relatives and not allowing her to go walk down stairs without holding someone's hand. While the Captain is unquestionably The Worst, it's hard to know how to judge Victoria's mother. On the one hand, it seems clear that Captain Conroy is controlling and abusive towards her; on the other, she seems to wholeheartedly agree with his various awful policies re: Victoria. There's really no anti-bonus factor that covers this particular situation, so I'm just going with a general condemnation of Victoria's guardianship.

Casting Call:

Maisie Williams as Victoria

Barring a de-aged Emily Blunt, I think Maisie could do a good job playing a very different kind of princess* than Arya.

*I know Arya's not actually a princess, but just as last time, you can't get me to change a sentence's structure to fit the facts that easy.

Relationship Status: Grudging Friendship

I admit it, Book: I was kind of biased against you when our date started. It's not your fault, it's mine—well, maybe a little bit yours—but either way, my bias turned out to be largely unfounded. I can't say that our time together had me seeing stars, but I did see things from your perspective, and that made me like you a little more. I don't think we're MFEO, but I'm certainly glad I met you when I did.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my allowance. Victoria: May Blossom of Britannia has been available for years, y'all. So get on that.

Maria Greer's photo About the Author: Maria is originally from Montana but goes to school in the Bay Area, where she totally fails to take advantage of the tech industry. Instead, she is majoring in history and creative writing, with which she plans to do...something. Currently her hope is that someone will come along and offer to pay her to read YA novels and eat cupcakes. Until that day, Maria spends most of her time studying and petitioning the university to let her keep a cat in her dorm.