Before we get started with this review, I have to give you guys some context because The Princess Diaries series means A LOT to me and that definitely affected my reading experience. Royal Wedding is the 11th book in the series, that probably should be warning enough about excessive fangirl bias, but I still think it’s important that everyone understand the context in which I read this book.
It’s kind of difficult to express how important Mia Thermopolis is to my existence, but I think the easiest way to help you understand is to look at my writing style. It is – to this day – so heavily influenced by Mia’s diaries that it might be a breach of copyright. That’s right, my hyperbole, all those RANDOM CAPS, the excessive punctuation!!!! The fragments. My obsession with ellipsis, it’s all because of The Princess Diaries. So please direct any complaints towards Meg Cabot.
No joke, The Princess Diaries influenced me more than Harry Potter. This is one of the most significant book series I have EVER read, so try to keep that in mind as I talk about Mia’s latest adventure because it is impossible for me to look at this with unbiased eyes.
Picking up about 8 years after the last book, Royal Wedding shows us Princess Mia all grown up… well as grown up as one can be in their mid twenties. Mia is still with Michael (which is good because I did not fight all those ship wars just so they could break up) but everything else in Mia’s life feels like it’s falling apart. Everything only gets worse when she discovers a secret her father has been keeping for as long as she’s known she was a princess. Also there’s talk of weddings of course but that’s really the least of Mia’s problems.
Royal Wedding is a perfect Princess Diaries book. Mia is older but definitely the same girl we all fell in love with all those years ago. Her relationship with Michael is wonderfully mature, and the storyline is entertaining and totally over the top as Mia’s diaries always tend to be. The book also touches on life in the public eye, and dealing with the paparazzi – so it’s got some depth. If you’re a fan of The Princess Diaries then you will weep with happiness at this book’s perfection, but if you’re not familiar with Mia’s story (or you’ve only seen the movies) then you’ll probably find this book a little confusing.
This is your spoiler warning! Proceed with caution!
Again, I’m going to remind you that this is the 11th book in a series, and it’s also the return to a character that we haven’t heard from in a while. There’s quite the time jump between books 10 and 11, which is great because I’ve grown up a lot since the last book, as have most fans of the series, but it also means that there’s a little bit of info dump catch up. Cabot does this surprisingly well, not really interrupting the flow of Mia’s stream of consciousness, but as a fan I have to say that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to read about some of the things that happened in the interim.
The most jarring victim of this jump is Mr. Gianini – Mia’s stepfather. In Royal Wedding, Frank Gianini has been dead for a year; therefore, most of the characters in the book are moving on with their lives when the book starts. In some ways this is interesting, because it looks at grief in a way that is distanced and kind of refreshing. But at the same time, I read 10 books featuring Mr. G – have I mentioned I’m massive fan – so while Mia might be distanced from grief, I was not. While I was reading I couldn’t help but get a little prickly every time Mr. G was mentioned, but that is probably down to my extreme attachment to the characters.
As with all the other books in the series, the best part of Royal Wedding is Mia herself. It’s hard to age a character up without making them seem like a completely different person – as many fanfiction writers will attest to – but Meg Cabot does it with ease. This is very much the Mia from the previous books but she’s also matured A LOT. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to see that even in her mid-twenties Mia is still as paranoid and dramatic as ever because yes, years give you wisdom but they do not remove your personality – even the parts you might wish were removed.
This book also touches on some relevant issues – particularly the vitriol on the Internet. Mia’s a public figure, and she knows that. She has to give up certain aspects of her privacy, and she does so willingly, but she has a limit and Royal Wedding explores that limit. Mia obsessively checks the rankings for favorite royal, she is unable to work because her presence is disruptive, her relationship is under constant speculation, and throughout the book she is being harassed by an online stalker.
Other characters – particularly Mia’s father and Tina Hakim Baba – are also dealing with the trials and tribulations of life in the spotlight. While Royal Wedding doesn’t offer any answers to these questions, it does raise some interesting questions – ones that are particularly poignant because anyone that has followed Mia’s journey has an attachment to these characters, which makes it harder to dismiss the price of fame.
Royal Wedding also introduces a new character in Mia’s half sister Olivia – who is starring in her own book. She presents a whole new set of challenges for life in the public eye because Olivia is a WOC. While Royal Wedding doesn’t directly deal with racism, it does touch on the subject, and I am super excited that the next generation of Princess Diaries fans will see the story through the eyes of someone other than a white woman. Honestly I think Mia would be pretty excited about this, too.
Finally there’s Michael. I’m not really sure what to say except that he’s still Michael. His relationship with Mia is a thing of beauty because it’s real. It’s not magical, it’s not a fairytale, it’s just two people trying to do the best they can and it’s wonderful. Michael is as lovely as ever, his proposal is prefect but personally I liked the way he brought up the headline that called him the world’s greatest lover at every chance he got.
There’s this idea, that once two characters get together the relationship becomes boring and the only way to inject drama is to break them up. This idea is so incredibly untrue. Mia and Michael are in a happy committed relationship, there is no cheating or excessive lying, but it’s not definitely not boring. They had their conflict when they were in high school, and they’ve been together for almost a decade. If Cabot had tried to put a strain on their relationship it would have been unbelievable; besides, Mia’s life is already dramatic enough, just as her.
I wore my emotions on my sleeve as I read this book. I laughed, I smiled, I cried like a baby. Part of me thinks I should dismiss my enjoyment because I was always going to love this story but that’s not true. I am a fan. I have followed Mia since she was fourteen and I would be the first to get so super angry if this book was not everything I wanted it to be and more.
I’ll admit that the ending felt a little twee, but then again I would not have accepted anything else. Mia works damn hard for her happy ending and she completely deserves it. Reading Royal Wedding was like visiting old friends and that’s exactly what I wanted. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read it again and cry.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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