Charming and cute. Nostalgia and a sale on the electronic boxed set brought this to my attention; while I have the paperback set, they get more and more challenging to both store and read. The first two books in the series were/are comfort reads from long ago, and Dealing with Dragons has successfully withstood the nostalgia test.
Language is young adult; it’s clear and straight-forward with that occasional side-eye wink that makes it enjoyable to non-young adults as well. Cimorene of the Kingdom of Linderwall is a princess who is fed up with having her options limited (fencing, magic, philosophy, cooking and economics) because she’s told that’s just not proper. One day, she discovers her parents are in the process of arranging a marriage to a properly eligible prince, which sounds absolutely boring. So she takes advice from a frog–which is, in fact, perfectly acceptable in the fairy-tale world–and runs off to find a dragon. Kazul is a senior dragon, and she and Cimorene get along famously. Then the troubles begin.
Female-centric characters are center stage. It has a slower start as Cimorene gets her gumption, but eventually ramps up into a lot of conflicts both small and large, mostly according to acceptable fairy-tale standards. The villains are villainous and appropriately hateable, and Wrede follows acceptable gentle young-person standards in dealing with them.
What was a surprising bit of fun about this re-released edition is that Wrede writes a retrospective introduction. She writes, “This book was a tremendous amount of fun to write, because I liked Cimorene and her intensely practical approach to all the fairy-tale tropes I have always loved.” She further elaborates that her family provided a number of similar women who “takes any guff from anyone. They aren’t proving a point about what women could, should or can do; they are ignoring that whole question (which none of them considers a question worth asking at all) and getting on with doing the things that interest them most.”
I’ve always loved Cimorene’s practical and can-do attitude. She doesn’t fuss; she reaches a roadblock and finds a way around. One can do worse.