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I’ve said it before, but in case I still need to, Bibliophile Princess is not necessarily doing justice to its source material. We mostly see this in episode eight, which finishes up the storyline where Elianna and Chris are on separate political missions. In the books, we have time to appreciate how Elianna’s book knowledge allows her to navigate the circumstances she finds herself in before Chris comes riding to the rescue. Here, however, we’re mostly treated to Eli looking vaguely surprised as events unfold around and to her. It doesn’t do Elianna’s character any favors and doesn’t make it clear why she is the right choice to be Chris’s wife. It isn’t an egregious fault in the storytelling; it’s simply that if you want to see the storyline done justice, you’ll need to pick up the novels.

On the plus side, this arc’s use of Lady Sophia and her dastardly maid set up the story arc in episode nine quite well. Sophia isn’t the first mean girl Elianna has encountered, nor will she be the last, and Eli must understand that this is a persistent issue she will be running into for probably the rest of her life at court. Perhaps even more critical than Sophia’s attempt to harm Elianna is that she is not doing so out of her own malicious thoughts. While she clearly isn’t thrilled that Eli is Chris’s fiancée, it’s also very apparent, even before the reveal, that her maid is feeding her the dastardly plans. This is indicative of the layered machinations that Eli will find in court; the people acting against her are not necessarily doing so out of their volition; they may instead be being manipulated by others in the shadows.

We have plenty of evidence of this in episode nine. The most clumsily done is certainly little Lady Sharon, whose sister Mireille was one of Chris’ childhood friends and an early candidate to be his fiancée. Mireille has since married and been widowed, which by many standards of 18th and 19th-century royal marriages makes her ineligible to become Chris’ bride. However, it very well could qualify her as a potential concubine, a worry that Chris’ mother, queen Henrietta has so nicely planted in Elianna’s fertile mind. Sharon almost certainly desires some tangible union between her sister and the prince, although this may not be something that she herself has come up with; it seems, given her age, that she could very well have been fed this assignment before her arrival at the court. But it is symptomatic of what Henrietta is attempting to warn Elianna about.

It’s really easy to dislike Henrietta. This is the first time we’ve met her in the story, although we had heard previously about her apparent personality shift after her brush with the illness known as the ashen nightmare. We now learn that part of that may be because she only gave birth to Chris, making him the sole direct heir to the throne. That she tells this to Elianna as she is reminding her of the ashen nightmare (which Eli does not need reminding of; her mother was killed by it) suggests that the illness rendered her sterile, although she also seems to blame her supposedly advanced age when she had her son. All of this is largely by way of warning Elianna that just because she marries the prince doesn’t mean she gets to ride off happily ever after into the sunset; there will always be more than just she and her husband in a royal marriage. Henrietta is trying to be helpful, but she’s not good at it, mainly because she doesn’t know how to talk to Elianna. As those of us with anxiety or who are introverted (or both!) know, people aren’t always aware of the effect their well-meaning words or strict phrasing can have on us. While Elianna is taking Henrietta’s words to heart, it’s also clear that the queen’s lessons are making her question her fitness to be the Crown Princess and renewing her thoughts that maybe it would just be easier to step away.

Christopher, of course, is unlikely to stand for this, and it is this episode’s saving grace that we are reminded of how well he knows her and how much he cares about her. Nothing says that the old ways of doing things can’t be changed to enable Eli better to fulfill her role as queen. It’s more that the old guard and the courtiers generally can only partially fathom that their laws are immutable. Hopefully, Eli will figure this out soon because, as it stands at the end of this episode, she’ll eat herself alive long before the Mean Girls of the Royal Court get a chance to.


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