If you spend enough time with me, then you’ll quickly realize how much I LOVE all things Disney and all things princessy. That said, as a feminist, I seek out books featuring princesses more along the lines of Anna from Frozen than Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Today’s column features three completely different princesses, each in her own original fairy tale.
In Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Princess and the Hound, the protagonist and narrator is actually young
Prince George, betrothed out of duty to the icy Princess Beatrice. He is heir to a troubled kingdom,
where he is forced to keep his animal magic a secret. She is the princess of a rival kingdom, and she
cares for no one except her hound.
In Donna Jo Napoli’s Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale, Melkorka is a princess kidnapped into slavery. After taking a vow of silence, she discovers this small act of defiance might help her survive captivity.
In Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, Miri isn’t actually a princess… but she could become one. Along with other girls from her mountain village, Miri must attend a “Princess Academy” to gain both book knowledge and social graces, essential training before the prince chooses one of them for a bride. The Princess and the Hound is the first book I ever read by Harrison, and when I finished, I promptly ordered several more of her books. This book is a fairy tale unlike any other. Words cannot fully describe the extent of its enchantment. Below is just a short list of the highlights of this book:
Complex, well-developed characters, even among the supporting cast.
A cool form of magic that seems simple and limited at first, but is actually expansive and
wonderful even with its rules.
A big plot twist that I knew was coming, but did NOT predict.
Several small plot twists, some of which I predicted.
An unusual, but realistic love story.
Character growth! For multiple characters!
Beautiful language and imagery.
I appreciated Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale, but for different reasons. In fact, before reading it, I noticed another reviewer describe it as powerful, but not enjoyable, which is an apt description. Fair warning: it is a fairly dark novel, including a rape scene.
Melkorka and her sister Brigid are both kidnapped by slave traders. Brigid eventually manages to
escape, but Melkorka remains captive, with only her mysterious silence granting her a modicum of
Napoli’s writing is as beautiful and descriptive as ever. While the use of the present tense can feel jarring at first, it’s a solid literary device that kept me in the moment. This book is more historical fiction than magical fairy tale, but it’s too good not to mention.
Finally, I loved Hale’s Princess Academy, and I can’t wait to read the sequels! There just isn’t a great way to summarize Princess Academy without making it seem too fluffy or cliché. That said, Hale takes the “princess school” plot and turns it on its head. This book includes all the elements I look for in a Young Adult novel:
Innocent young love
Close family dynamics
Camaraderie between girls
A spirited protagonist who exhibits character growth—very coming-of-age.
Plot twists and turns!
What princess book or books are your favorites? Share your recommendations in the comments!
Brita Long is a francophile feminist living out her own fairy tale with her husband in Ohio. You can find her online at bellebrita.com, where she writes about her faith, books, and her life as a southern belle in the Midwest.