Aurelia by Anne Osterlund. (Grades 7+)
Summary from the back of the book:
"Aurelia, the crown princess of Tyralt, wants control over her own life. Robert, her former classmate, wants Aurelia. And someone wants her... dead. There have been several narrowly escaped attempts to assassinate the princess, but the king has no desire to incite panic by making the information public. Instead, Robert, the son of the king's former royal spy, is allowed into the inner circle to secretly investigate and watch over Aurelia. Robert is determined to help, if only Aurelia would let him! But the princess will not heed the danger around her, and she does not need Robert to save her. Just as their friendship begins to grow into something more, the threat on Aurelia's life becomes paramount. With everything possible on the line - her life, her kingdom, her heart - Aurelia must take matters into her own hands, whatever the cost."
I can't sum it up any better than that. I really enjoyed Aurelia. Kick-butt heroine? Check. Intriguing family history? Check. Swordfighting? Check. A dash of romance? Check.
Yes, Aurelia's got all the elements, but there were things about it that I liked even more than your average feisty princess story. Aurelia being in the dark about the plots to kill her made the storyline even more interesting to me. The mystery woven into the story kept things moving and wasn't totally predictable (at least to me). And Aurelia's not just adventurous and independent for the heck of it. She really loves her kingdom and wants to be a good ruler. She sneaks out of the castle, not for thrills (well, sometimes for thrills), but to visit with and get to know the people.
It wasn't perfect, but it was a fine read and will satisfy those teens who can't get enough of princess stories. I'd recommend this to fans of Cynthia Voigt's Jackaroo (have other people read the Kingdom books? Does anyone else love them, too??) and maybe Tamora Pierce's Alanna. Check out Anne Osterlund's website and more reviews by Becky, Trisha, and Tiny Little Librarian.