Practically every little girl dreams of being a princess at some point in their life, but recently princess have gotten a lot of slack for not being good, strong role models for young girls. People are tired of the same old ‘damsel in distress’ routine. So I’ve complied a list of middle grade and YA books featuring badass princesses (and other assorted royalty) who I think could help rehabilitate the princess image. Because these ladies rule.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
There are plenty of strong female characters in the magical world of Patricia C. Wrede, from no-nonsense witches to super awesome dragons, but none of them is as wonderful as the fiercely independent Princess Cimorene.
Cimorene is the youngest daughter of the King and Queen of the kingdom of Linderwall. Unlike her six older sisters, who are all blonde, polite, and interested in proper princess hobbies, Cimorene wears her long black hair in braids, and she’d rather learn how to cook, or fence, or speak Latin than do nay of the things deemed proper by her parents. She has no interest in embroidery or etiquette or marrying the incredibly boring Prince Therandil like her parents want. So, on the advice of a talking frog, Cimorene runs away to become the dragon Kazul’s princess.
This leads to a series of exciting adventures for Cimorene. The Mountains of Morning are packed full of interesting characters and mysterious magic. Any other princess might be in over her head, but Cimorene isn’t just any princess. She’s clever, and she faces challenges head on. From evil wizards to enchanted princes, she’s always ready for a little adventure.
This series has been one of my favorites since before I can remember. I first read this story when I was a little girl, and to this day I still want to be like Princess Cimorene. Wrede’s witty characters and charming writing style appeal to readers of all ages.
Pretty much any E. D. Baker book.
I love a good fairy tale adaptation and E. D. Baker is an adaptation master. I grew up devouring books from both the Tales of the Frog Princess and Tales of the Wide Awake Princess series.
To anyone who’s seen Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, the plot of Baker’s The Frog Princess might seem somewhat familiar. That’s because the movie was based very loosely on the book.
Princess Emerelda (or Emma as she prefers to be called) isn’t any good at being a princess. She’s clumsy, awkward, and would rather spend time in a swamp than with Prince Jorge, the obnoxious prince her mother wants her to marry.
It’s when she’s hiding out in the swamp that she meets Eadric, a frog who claims to be a prince under a spell. He convinces Emma to kiss him, insisting the only way to break the spell is for him to be kissed by a princess. Unfortunately, the kiss backfires and leaving Emma stuck in the swamp as a frog.
Now she must work with Eadric to find a way out of the swamp, facing obstacles like angry witches, greedy otters, and a very disgruntled swamp fairy, and into the castle where her Aunt Grassina can help them become human again.
Baker somehow managed to fit even more fairy tale madness into her Tales of the Wide Awake Princess Series.
After their elder daughter, Princess Gwen, is cursed by an evil fairy, Queen Karolina and King Halbert of Treecrest are willing to go to drastic measures to make sure their second daughter, Princess Annabelle, is safe from harmful magic. Usually when princess are christened they are blessed with many magical gift from fairies. Gifts of beauty, and song, and all sorts of other talents befitting a princess. Princess Annie received only one gift, the guarantee that no magic, good or bad, would ever be able to touch her.
That’s why, when on Gwen’s sixteenth birthday she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, sending the entire castle into an enchanted sleep, Annie is the only one who stays awake. Now it’s up to her to find her sister’s true love so he can kiss her and break the curse.
Accompanied by Liam, one of her father’s guards, Annie travels through a land of fairy tales, running into all sorts of trouble, from enchanted princes, to witches in gingerbread houses, to really tall stacks of mattresses. Annie is willing to do anything to wake her sister and save her kingdom.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.
Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England for nine days after her cousin King Edward died. Her reign was cut short when her other cousin, Queen Mary, took over and had her executed.
Now you might be thinking- “Eva, why are we getting this history lesson? Jane wasn’t even a princess.”
Yes, Lady Jane Grey was not a princess, but she also didn’t live in a world where people were able to turn into animals. That is, unless you believe Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows’s version of the story.
My Lady Jane is the story of Lady Jane Grey, with a pinch of humor and a dash of magic aded to make it more interesting.
When King Edward learns that he’s dying he knows he’s going to need a successor. in an attempt to keep the throne away from his sister Mary, he changes to line of succession so that crown will go to his cousin Jane and her male heirs, she just needs to get married first. The solution: Arrange for her to be married to Gifford Dudley, the younger son of his most trusted advisor.
This raises even more problems. Firstly, Jane has no interest in getting married, and would rather be reading than running a country. Secondly, Gifford is a horse.
No, literally, he turns into a horse when the sun rises and stays that way all day.
But Edward doesn’t have much times to worry about little things like that.
When Jane is forced to take the throne after Edward’s apparent death, she’s dropped into the middle of a dangerous political war. Tensions in the kingdom are rising, and with Mary threatening her crown, it seems like Jane’ll have her work cut out for her.
I picked this book up because a review on the back described it as “Monty Python meets The Tudors” and I wanted to know how that could possibly work. What I found was an absolutely charming and hilarious story that made it straight onto my list of favorite reads.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
I’ve been slightly obsessed with this series for a while. It’s one I always recommend to friends looking for a new read. You’ll probably be hearing a lot about Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (and Throne. You can’t forget Throne.) on this blog.
When you think Cinderella what comes to mind? It’s probably not the words Cyborg mechanic and revolutionary, unless you’ve read the Lunar Chronicles. That’s because Cinder, the main character of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, isn’t your typical Cinderella character. Meyer does a flawless job of blending the plots of classic fairy tales into her futuristic society. In fact, this four book series has pretty much everything you could ask for: An interesting and diverse cast of characters, an extremely well developed world, and romantic subplots that are free of awkward love triangles.
When the Queen Levana, the evil Queen of Luna, who, like all lunars happens to have the power to control people, starts threatening the earth with war, it’s up to Cinder to defeat her. She’s certainly not alone though. She’s got her friends to help her. Readers can’t help but fall in love with this misfit band of fairy tale characters turned revolutionaries. After all, who doesn’t love ex-convicts, mutant wolf soldiers, eccentric androids, and slightly crazy princesses?