Patricia Wrede,
Dealing With Dragons
(Harcourt, 1990; Scholastic, 1992)

Patricia Wrede introduces one of the feistiest and most fascinating princesses in all of fantasydom in Dealing With Dragons, the first book of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Princess Cimorene doesn't particularly like being a princess. She'd rather fence than dance, cook than curtsey, and study magic rather than manners. None of her interests are considered proper for a princess, and now her parents have issued the final insult -- she is to be betrothed to Prince Therandil. Therandil's handsome enough, but as far as Cimorene is concerned, that's about all he has going for him.

So, what's a princess to do? Volunteer to be a dragon's captive princess, of course! Thanks to a friendly but not enchanted frog, she is soon in the employ of Kazul, a she-dragon of extraordinary intelligence and wit who appreciates Cimorene's spirit. Soon enough, Cimorene is happily engaged in sorting treasure, organizing the library and whipping up vats of cherries jubilee.

Being a volunteer princess does have a down side. To begin with, it just isn't done. Thus, Cimorene is constantly pestered by princes who don't believe that she doesn't want to be rescued, and she begins to find it tiresome to set all the princes straight. She sets off to post a sign intended to discourage would-be rescuers, but on the way has a nasty encounter with a wizard.

This is only to be expected, since the wizards of the Enchanted Forest are Not Nice People and not only do dragons not particularly like them but they're allergic to wizardly staffs. Soon Cimorene discovers a wizardly plot against the dragons, and before you can say "feverfew" she enlists her new friends Morwen, a witch and Alianora, another captive princess to help her stop the wizards.

Wrede displays a flair for turning fairy tale conventions upside down with plenty of understated tongue-in-cheek humor. Cimorene is a terrific Anti-Princess with an attitude that doesn't quit, and her friendship with Kazul is warm and convincing. Looking for something to catch the attention of a reader fed up with the usual fairy tale fare? Set them off to be Dealing With Dragons and have them take a page from Cimorene's book

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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