Fantasy Flashback: Dealing With Dragons

Thursday, February 17, 2011



Dealing With Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One)
Patricia C. Wrede, 1990

--In Which Lindsay Explains With Erudition Why You Should Read Dealing With Dragons--

Fantasy Flashback is a week long event in which I'm re-reading books that were important to me as a young person.

Without a doubt, this is the best book I've read for this week so far.

This assertion might be slightly unfair, because it's also the most recent book, and I think the Enchanted Forest books are aimed at slightly older kids than some of the others, but my opinion remains the same.

Eilonwy is charming, Dakin kind, and Shiela resourceful, but Cimorene! Cimorene is a fun, fantastic character, and a good role model for parents concerned by the princessification of little girls.
The King and Queen did the best they could. They hired the most superior tutors and governesses to teach Cimorene all the things a princess ought to know– dancing, embroidery, drawing, and etiquette. There was a great deal of etiquette, from the proper way to curtsy before a visiting prince to how loudly it was permissible to scream while being carried off by a giant.... 
Cimorene found it all very dull, but she pressed her lips together and learned it anyway. When she couldn't stand it any longer, she would go down to the castle armory and bully the armsmaster into giving her a fencing lesson. As she got older, she found her regular lessons more and more boring. Consequently, the fencing lessons became more and more frequent. 
When she was twelve, her father found out.
Cimorene is stubborn, opinionated, and supremely practical, as well as smart, brave and kind. At sixteen, she runs off to be a dragon's princess rather than marry, and that's where her adventures really begin. All of the characters are fabulous: the somewhat lackluster Prince Therendil, the kind Kazul and all of the other dragons, unfussy Morwen the witch, the scheming wizards, the other dragons' princesses... it's a colorful and fun world.

The whole book is a love letter to fairy tales which gently pokes fun at the conventions while telling a great story. Between my extreme enjoyment of the characters and the deadpan humor in the narration, this book still has me laughing aloud.
“No proper princess would come out looking for dragons,” Woraug objected. 
“Well, I'm not a proper princess, then” Cimorene snapped. “I make cherries jubilee, and I volunteer for dragons, and I conjugate Latin verbs – or at least I would if anyone would let me. So there!”
I'm quite glad I re-read this one, it deserves to be even more of a classic than it is. Although, you run the risk reading it now of reacting against the tropes. In other words, it's now so much the norm that the heroine be rebellious and clever and a tomboy, that the tomboy archetype has become, itself, a cliché. However, I find that Dealing With Dragons is written with such care and humor that you're unlikely to be troubled by Cimorene, but just to enjoy riding along with her adventure.

(Plus there's NO ROMANCE in all of book one. Huzzah!)


All the ratings this week come with a caveat: every book discussed this week was a five star book to 11 year-old me. So please keep that in mind, this is not a universal judgement, but a personal one.  

29 year-old me gives Dealing With Dragons: 5 Stars - An Amazing Book

Tomorrow: Sun Blind

3 comments:

Shiraz Biggie said...

This one I remember as being a favorite to my 11 year old self as well, but I don't think I've read it since then. I'm glad it holds up.

Aimee said...

My kids and I did this series audio as we had lots of car time. It was LOVE for all of us. A great series.

I have them sitting in my tbr pile so I can review them at some point.

Nice review. Thanks for posting it.

Aimee
http://gettingyourreadonaimeebrown.blogspot.com/

Lindsay said...

Glad you liked the review! I get a kick out of this series, it's just the sort of adventure and humor mix that I enjoy.

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