Princess: Stepping out of the Shadows by Jean Sasson (Book Review)

I received a free digital copy of this book, thanks to INscribe Digital and NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinions on the book.

Princess: Stepping out of the Shadows by Jean Sasson - Book Cover

Book Blurb:

Some things never change—even in the life of a Saudi Princess! Whether it is entertaining guests in her decadent palace, jet-setting between four mansions on three different continents, or receiving opulent jewels from her adoring husband, the royal lifestyle is nothing new to Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud. And neither are the antics of the Royal Family: from a niece who constantly steals from her to a sister obsessed with having the lips of Angelina Jolie. And of course there’s Sultana’s bullish brother who is convinced that her outspokenness will be the ruin of the Royal Family!

But miraculous change is also in the air. The young Saudi Crowned Prince has proclaimed his plan to give Saudi women more freedoms, including the right to drive! Princess Sultana exults as her beloved Kingdom moves further away from the days of infant girls buried in sand and women battered by stones or the fists of their husbands.

Even as a bright, new day lingers on the horizon, Saudi women’s biggest obstacle still lurks in the shadows—the Guardianship Law. Will Saudi Arabia forever be plagued with men who doubt women’s capacity to make their own decisions? Will the winds of change wither to a whisper? Whatever may occur, Princess: Stepping Out of the Shadows proves that nothing is simple in Saudi Arabia.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Tags: Non-fiction, Women’s fiction, Royalty, Feminism, Saudi Arabia, Middle-East, History

My Thoughts:

Told in the POV of Princess Sultana, Princess: Stepping Out Of The Shadows is about her life, history of Saudi Arabia, their lifestyle and changing social situation, and fighting for women’s rights in the Land of the Deserts.

king-abdulaziz al-saud portrait

King Abdul Aziz al-Sa’ud, founder of Saudi Arabia and grandfather of Princess Sultana. Image courtesy of GlobalSecurity.org.

I did not enjoy the narrative’s style, it had this lofty quality to it and read stiffly.

‘…I could not bear the thought of seeing what I knew would be disappointment flash in your eyes if the jewels were not recovered.’

The women in the book were admirable for donating and fighting for the cause of their lesser endowed sisters across Arabia, and they themselves are strong for having endured the oppression of the guardianship rule for so long. But I also found their countenance quite frail and delicate, everything called for a sweet tea or a sit down or a nap. Even the case of a portrait warranted many sleepless nights, security specialists and drama. Yes, it was a precious item and in danger of being stolen, but was there a need for such melodrama?


A sprawling private palace in Saudi Arabia, estimated at around USD 120 million. Image courtesy of Haif Company, click the link to check out the interior of the palace.
Foyer Nasiriya Guest Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Nasiriya Guest Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Tim Graham.
King's palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The King’s palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Alamy.

Also, she stated that non-Muslims won’t understand that strangers aren’t allowed to see the likeness of her belated, pious mother and if that were to happen it’d be the ‘greatest sin’. She also said that only family members are invited to view it. I would just like to point out that I’m a practicing Muslim and, no, it would not be the ‘greatest sin’, and, no, females(be it stranger or family) are allowed to see each other without a veil.

Local women in their abayas(black robe-like garments) shopping at a souk.

Local women in their abayas(black robe-like garments). Image courtesy of New York Social Diary(check out her blog post to see more amazing pictures of her trip in Saudi Arabia!)

At times, the princess comes off as supercilious, although she has good intentions and a kind heart. The other ladies were quite distinct and colorful in their personalities. I loved Dalal’s humor!

The narrative was sometimes jumpy and the history paragraphs bored me. But that’s just my preference, many of you might be interested in reading it. Princess Sultana’s opinions of the Crown Prince comes off as saccharine and kind of naive, defending his actions even when they’re questionable. I do agree that he’s bringing a revolutionary change for the women and that’s wholly commendable and long overdue, but don’t sugarcoat and dismiss any of his dubious actions.

Despite all the misgivings I had for this book, I have to say that just reading one book in this series is sufficient to bring awareness of the dire and despicably atrocious plight of the women and girls in war-torn countries and under abusive men and totalitarian regimes. I hope that, in spite of the swooning ladies and history lessons, this book will bring awareness and convince more of us to join in fighting for their cause.

Readers looking for a dose of drama will find them, you will also find that these enigmatic, veiled women are just like their sisters in other countries, with hopes, ambitions, and a sense of humour.
Parental Guidance: 12+
Violence – Description of abuse cases
Sex – Mention of rape cases
Religion – Yes, mention of Islamic beliefs and practices
Profanity – None

Recommended for: readers curious about royal life in Saudi Arabia and societal situation in the Middle East. Also if you like reality shows(this is a conservative, Arabian version).

Grab this now on: Amazon | BookDepository | Goodreads

Extra reading:

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