I believe that there are too many great books coming out this year. Which is why I finally did what I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I picked up an older book that is somewhat of a classic of fantasy literature. At least that’s my impression. My first Patricia C. Wrede read was much more charming than expected and I look forward to returning to the Enchanted Forest soon.
DEALING WITH DRAGONS
by Patricia C. Wrede
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers, 1990
Ebook: 212 pages
Series: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1
My rating: 7/10
First sentence: Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable.
Meet Princess Cimorene–a princess who refustes to be proper. She is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomobyish smart… And bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon. And not just any dragon, but Kazul–one of the most powerful and dangerous dragons arounds. Of course, Cimorene has a way of hooking up with dangerous characters, and soon she’s coping with a witch,a a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, a stone prince, and some very oily wizards. If this princess ran away to find some excitement, it looks like she’s found plenty!
Cimorene is a terrible princess, mostly because she is no good at princessing. She wants to do magic and fight and learn boy-stuff, not embroidery and dancing. As much as I hate the initial message of this book (everything girly is bad and boring), Cimorene makes up for all of it later on. She runs away, promptly meets some dragons and becomes the princess to the dragon Kazul. Because you see, much as it is tradition (and a form of establishing status) for princes to rescue maidens from dragons, having your own princess is a status symbol for a dragon.
Except most princesses want to be rescued and Cimorene will not have it. In fact, she has a rather hard time keeping away all the knights and princes trying to “save” her from the clutches of Kazul, who is much more a friend than an evil mistress. Cimorene likes cleaning up the dragon caves, organising the library, and sorting through the treasure cave. But dragons have politics of their own and not all is as peaceful as it seems.
The plot itself is quite cute, although very obvious to an adult reader. But despite seeing where the story was going from miles away, I enjoyed reading about Cimorene immensely. The villains may be obvious, but not always – prince Therandil, for example, may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he is sympathetic enough. I really liked how things aren’t totally black and white, as in most books for children. I also liked the side characters, because they had their own flaws and personalities.
Cimorene is just a cool heroine to root for. She is practical and brave, knows what she wants and is quick to make friends. But she’s also far from naive, and sometimes has to use all her cleverness to escape dangerous situations. Wizards and jinn are not to be trifled with, after all, and just because you may live with a dragon doesn’t mean their fire can’t hurt you. But my favorite part was probably the little remarks about fairy tale tropes. Like how it’s tradition to invite a fairy to a princess’ christening, or how it always has to be the youngest son who does important stuff. There are even little asides about princesses who did just what they were supposed to do – fall asleep for a really long time until a prince kissed them awake, spin straw into gold, and so on. These fairy tales are treated as the norm in this world, which gave this an added layer of fun and originality, because Cimorene so decidedly refuses to be put into that princess mold.
This was a delightful read, in every sense. The language was simple, but made it hard to put the book down at any point. The characters were lovely, the plot was nice, and the overall message – find what you enjoy and make that your job, pick your own family (and make it one who loves you for who you are) – is one I can wholeheartedly agree with. It rankled how distasteful Cimorene found her “girly” lessons at the beginning but even she has to admit, in the course of her adventure, that some of it came in quite handy.
I already look forward to the sequels because I have a feeling this series is a great comfort read, something to get you out of a reading slump, something to always leave you smiling. I also look forward to Cimorene growing up some more and finding her place in the world.
MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good!