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Philip Pullman – The Tin Princess

April 19, 2010

39. The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman (1994)
Sally Lockhart Mysteries, Book 4

Length: 304 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Started: 03 April 2010
Finished: 10 April 2010

Where did it come from? Bookmooch
Why do I have it? A friend reading it told me that the third and the fourth Sally Lockhart books were better than A Shadow in the North; she was right that A Tiger in the Well was awesome, so I figure she’d be right about this one as well.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 April 2009

Summary: Jim Taylor has been searching for Adelaide, the young girl who he and Sally Lockhart rescued from the cruel Mrs. Holland, since she disappeared at the end of The Ruby in the Smoke. Now he’s found her… just as she’s about to become a Princess! She’s been secretly married to the youngest son of Razkavia, a tiny country sandwiched between Germany and Austria. When the prince’s older brother is assassinated, he and Adelaide must return to Razkavia, taking with them Jim, and Becky Winter, a bright young lady who will act as Adelaide’s tutor. However, they arrive to a country in turmoil, for it seems there is a conspiracy afoot to steal the throne away from its rightful owner. Any internal instability carries with it the threat of invasion from one of Razkavia’s powerful neighbors, and Becky, Jim, and Adelaide must do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

Review: While this book is listed as the fourth book in the Sally Lockhart series, it’s not really a direct sequel, and Sally herself only shows up for two brief chapters. While this does mean that this book would be readable without having read the preceeding three (Jim and Adelaide’s history is explained well enough for this book to stand on its own), it was also somewhat disappointing: Sally was definitely the best part of the earlier books, and her absence was sorely missed.

Becky could have been a worthy successor to Sally. They’re both bright, independent, resourseful, and unwilling to take “no” for an answer just because they’re a woman. However, the book split its focus between Becky and Adelaide as its co-heroines, which was unfortunate, since Adelaide didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t buy her near-overnight transformation from a Cockney whore to a gifted diplomat, and I didn’t find her nearly as charming as all of the other characters did, mostly because we’re not really given any evidence of her skills or affability, but just expected to take them on faith. This also meant that the romantic storyline between Jim and Adelaide fell flat for me; I spent the whole book thinking that he’d have been much better off with Becky.

Other than that, however, I did mostly enjoy the story, especially towards the middle/end as both the conspiracy and the adventure started to pick up. In some parts, I think Pullman was relying on his readers being more conversant with pre-World War I European politics than I am, but I managed to muddle through well enough, and the main points of the plot were perfectly clear (eventually. It is supposed to be a conspiracy mystery, after all.) Overall, I’d put it about on par with The Ruby in the Smoke; it’s got better pacing but less well-developed and compelling characters. The Tiger in the Well is still far and away my favorite, though. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s not really a must-read for anybody, but if Victorian mysteries are your thing, or you like conspiracies involving royal successions, then you’d probably find The Tin Princess to be an enjoyable read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Out of the Blue Book Reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Rebecca Winter, talented, cheerful, and poor, had arrived at the age of sixteen without once seeing a bomb go off.

Cover Thoughts: Decidedly meh. The flag is nice, but there’s not enough contrast to make out what’s going on with the castle – or barely that it’s a castle at all.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 25: “‘It’ll have to be a morganatic marriage,’ said Becky.” – of or pertaining to a form of marriage in which a person of high rank, as a member of the nobility, marries someone of lower station with the stipulation that neither the low-ranking spouse nor their children, if any, will have any claim to the titles or entailed property of the high-ranking partner.
    .
  • p. 42: “‘Now then, Mr Taylor,’ he said, fixing Jim with an eye that would have unseated a hussar.” – one of a body of Hungarian light cavalry formed during the 15th century.
    .
  • p. 132: “Finally she lost her temper, and threw an inkwell, shrieking in a waythat didn’t need translating even if Becky had known the German for pernicated procrastinators and gotch-gutted Goths.” – swaggering; men’s underwear.
    .
  • p. 135: “The Map Room held drawer upon drawer – wide, shallow mahogany drawers with bright brass handles – of maps and charts from all over the world, and a vast table for examining them on, together with various globes both terrestrial and celestial, a little Gregorian telescope on an equatorial mounting, and sundry items of navigational equipment in baize-lined rosewood boxes.” – a soft, usually green, woolen or cotton fabric resembling felt, used chiefly for the tops of billiard tables.
    .
  • p. 144: “However, ________, who seemed to be leading the way, moved leftwards a little, changing direction to head for a Palladian bridge that spanned the end of a lake.” – in the architectural style of Andrea Palladio.
    .
  • p. 175: “From the terminals, wires bound in gutta percha trailed up to a corner of the ceiling, and then through a dark hole.” – the tough, rubberlike gum made from various Malaysian trees of the sapodilla family, esp. Palaquium gutta.
    .
  • p. 200: “Tears came to the woman’s eyes, and her hands reached forward involuntarily to clasp and squeeze Adelaide’s; and Becky marvelled at the change, from that marmoreal monster of disdain who’d first taken Princess Adelaide’s training in hand.” – of or like marble.
    .
  • p. 203: “One of Herr Bangemann’s colleagues showed him how to fold a Chinese mandarin out of a square of paper, and Herr Bangemann at one set about making five of the little fellows, in decreasing order of size.” – an influential or powerful government official or bureaucrat.
    .
  • p. 221: “It overlooked a garden, or the ruins of one; bare trees and shrubs held up their arms of snow, and a leaden statue or two, a silent fountain-basin sheathed in ice, and a broken pergola gave off an air of deserted melancholy.” – an arbor formed of horizontal trelliswork supported on columns or posts, over which vines or other plants are trained.
    .
  • p. 274: “But his straw-coloured hair was nearly plastered down, his high ‘masher’ collar was immaculate, and his three-buttoned jacket in dark lovat was the very glass of fashion.” – a grayish blend of colors, esp. of green, used in textiles, as for plaids.
    .
7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2010 9:46 am

    Since I haven’t read the other books and you say it’s not a must read, I think I’ll skip this one.

  2. April 19, 2010 4:13 pm

    I’m kind of disappointed that the Adelaide storyline gets resolved in the series. I always considered her ominous disappearance to be this fantastic haunting touch with the first book. And to be resolved as about to become a princess? That seems off.

    • April 21, 2010 9:22 am

      Christy – This book did kind of feel like an afterthought on Pullman’s part, and like Adelaide just got roped back into the story so that Jim wouldn’t be the only familiar character.

  3. April 19, 2010 8:22 pm

    I quite enjoyed the actual Sally Lockhart mysteries, although I should pick them up again sometime soon, since that was a while ago. But I think The Tin Princess is a little too far from what I actually liked about the Sally Lockhart mysteries to be worth my time.

    • April 21, 2010 9:24 am

      Omni – Probably, yes. The style and tone and… attitude? are the same, but I did really miss Sally herself.

  4. May 9, 2010 8:06 am

    I was somewhat disappointed by this one. While I was happy to see Sally again, there was definitely not enough of her. Adelaide wasn’t a great heroine, and the ending wasn’t satisfying. I don’t remember exactly why, but there were many questions left unanswered, and in a mystery book, that always bugs me.
    I wrote an e-mail to Philip Pullman as soon as I finished The Tiger in the Well,asking if he will ever write about Sally and he daughter again. And he replied (not sure if it was actually him or a secretary, but anyways) saying he hasn’t ruled that out. He had other projects going on but he would like to go back to her one day. I certainly hope he will.

  5. Eleanor permalink
    November 1, 2011 3:37 pm

    No its just like you can blame him for not making it its own or not like the others. Its Adelaide iv read the first one, its amazing and being that its only her and jim you’ve got to have some sort of twist and theirs is Adelaide being a princess. And sally should be in it a few more times but youve got to at least give it a go other wise you might be judgeing it from what youve heard.

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