Top critical review
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Sweet and uncomplicated
on 14 November 2012
Wolf Princess is a charming story of English schoolgirl, Sophie Smith. Orphan Sophie is unremarkable, and her life is drab. She dreams of wolves and snow, and longs for something wonderful to happen. Just when it seems that Sophie and her friends will be spending the school trip in the most boring place imaginable, everything changes and she's assigned to the St Petersburg group.
Put on the wrong train, the girls end up at the palace of the compelling Princess Anna Feodorovna Volkonskaya - the Wolf Princess. Sophie, feeling more at home than she's ever felt, learns about the Volkonsky family, killed during the 1917 revolution, and is drawn into the mystery of the lost Volkonsky diamonds.
I think 8-12 year-old readers will find this most satisfying - it's a sweet, uncomplicated story of an orphan finding her place in the world, and of friendships between seemingly mismatched people: Sophie and her two roommates Marianne and Delphine in London, as well as the mysterious Dmitri and Masha in the Volkonsky palace in Russia.
**Mild Spoilers Ahead**
Most readers will be able to guess the 'mystery' out straight away, and in view of that, I feel like the author shouldn't have dragged the reveal out to the very end, because it only made me frustrated with Sophie for being so obtuse. Even though logic makes that seem like a sensible line, storytelling demands Sophie work it out close to the same pace as the reader. I also felt the characterisation was a bit two-dimensional: Constable played with contrasts that usually work well, but didn't add enough nuance or sympathy to really make the story come together and work for me at an emotional or story-level. There were hints and flashes of better, particularly in the telling of the Volkonsky history, and if she can bring the same level of workmanship to the rest of her writing, then I hope her future books will really be magical.