Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by HarperCollins
Tilda has never given much thought to dragons, attending instead to her endless duties and wishing herself free of a princess’s responsibilities.
When a greedy cousin steals Tilda’s lands, the young princess goes on the run with two would-be dragon slayers. Before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending magical horses, and battling flame-spouting dragons. On the adventure of a lifetime, and caught between dreams of freedom and the people who need her, Tilda learns more about dragons—and herself—than she ever imagined.
Merrie Haskell, author of The Princess Curse, presents a magical tale of transformation, danger, and duty, starring a remarkable princess as stubborn as she is brave.
Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse is one of my favourite MGs so when I managed to pick up her sophomore novel at ALA, I was beyond thrilled. Of course it languished in my reading pile for quite a long while until one of my cohort who had attended ALA with me told me how much she had loved it. And that was it. I knew I had to read the novel and I pounced on it as soon as I got home.
And I did love it. Oh I loved it in so many ways for so many reasons. First there was the world class world building. Then the characterizations and then, as is Haskell’s specialty, the twist in the perspective. Like in The Princess Curse the story is not told from the viewpoint of the character who would traditionally be the protagonist, in this case, the actual dragon slayer, but from the viewpoint of their scribe, the princess. Tilda, when we meet her, is not a very inspiring character. She has potential, of course, but due to her disability, a bad leg, she is almost drowned by insecurities. Even though she is the heir to a principality, responsible for the lives and livelihoods of so many people, she doesn’t want to take on the mantle of responsibility. For that reason, I wasn’t too sure I would jive with her initially but as the journey unfolded, she changed and her evolution as a person and a princess won me over.
There are many things going on in this novel and were it not handled with a fine hand, it would have felt overwhelming. However, Haskell manages to link each event and maintain a progression of the overarching plot despite the occasional segues. I love the horse characters as I do all animal characters and I love the dynamics between the three friends who are all very different people with different motivations and pasts and presented thusly. I especially loved how Tilda’s perception of dragons change and how her brief interlude wearing the skin of one is presented. Haskell portrays the non-human character really nicely.
The romance, what there is of it, is very light and totally suitable of a middle grade novel. It spices up the narrative but is very much a side plot that is hinted at but never delved into. For that reason, this book will be a success with younger readers and older ones who are weary of melodramatic he loves me and he loves me not stories.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic novel. Read it.