According to Mette Ivie Harrison, she started out determined to end up with a re-telling of the old fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea." By the time she got done with The Princess and the Hound, the story bore absolutely no resemblance to the old traditional fairy tale. Instead what we get is a mysterious story told from the prince's point of view in which we know there's something trippy going on with the princess and her hound, but we definitely don't know what it is. The tale takes place in a kingdom where many are born with the ability to speak with animals, but this ability is as feared and hated as old English witchcraft. The young prince is an animal-speaker himself, but suppresses his ability because he's trained to think of it as heresy. Mix in a little bit of arranged marriage, a wild bear, a boisterous king, a traitor in the court, and lots of other intrigue, and you come out with Mette Ivie Harrison's very own fairy tale.
The novel is definitely not marketed to males, although it's told from the male point of view, and I think that many males would enjoy it. It isn't particularly fast-paced or extremely riveting, but it's a quick read and an intriquing mystery. I like Harrison's folkloric style, though it could use a bit more humor here and there. While the book probably makes my cannon of YA fairytales, it doesn't quite make my top 5. The sequel is due to come out fairly soon, and I'll be interested to see where the story goes next.