Khanh the Killjoy

Revisiting a very old favorite from my childhood

Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede
"He doesn't seem very impressed," Cimorene commented in some amusement.
"Why should he be?" Kazul said.
"Well, you're a dragon," Cimorene answered, a little taken aback.
"What difference does that make to a cat?"

Before Harry Potter, there was Princess Cimorene, a dragon named Kazul, and the Enchanted Forest. I am no longer a 11-year old girl. I am a grown-ass woman, and I still love this book as much as I did the first time I read it.

Share this book with your sisters, your daughters, your nieces. This is a wonderful book for a young girl, it sends so many positive messages. You don't have to be what people want you to be. You do not have to fit into the mold. You can be brave, headstrong, smart, without being stubborn, without being mean. There is no romance. There is a Prince Charming who, frankly, bores the living crap out of our intrepid young Princess Cimorene. You do not need a Prince Charming to make your own Happily Ever After. You can be in charge of your own destiny.

This book grew with me through my childhood, and it remains with me as an adult. Some books I've read have made me think. Some books have made me cry. There is nothing so complex, so complicated about this little book; it just makes me happy.

Summary: Princess Cimorene is a princess of the very pleasant kingdom of Linderwall. It's pretty, it's quite ordinary. There isn't much magic, thankfully, not too many evil stepmothers or witches, not too many dragon abductions, etc.

All in all, Linderwall was a very prosperous and pleasant place.
Cimorene hated it.

Her older sister are all lovely and ladylike, each more beautiful than the last. Cimorene is not. She's too tall. Her hair is frizzy and brown. She's stubborn (on a good day). And she just won't stop learning inappropriate things. Magical lessons. Fencing. Fighting. Latin. All lessons that her disgruntled parents abruptly put a stop to once they find out, cause it just ain't proper for a princess, yo. And her fairy godmother is as useful as brains on a Kardashian.

Cimorene puts up with it as best as she can, until the day her parents send her off to visit the very handsome, golden haired, blue-eyed, Ken doll of a Prince. Unfortunately, he's got nothing in between his ears, and when Cimorene finds out that her parents intend to make her MARRY the creature, well, that does it. She takes the advice of a magical frog, packs some useful and practical things, and runs away from home.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, as it may be, the audience that the frog sends her to seek happens to be dragons. Very curious ones. Who might want to eat her (but they'd rather not...humans are so stringy). Using her wits, Cimorene talks her way into being a dragon's princess. Kazul is the awesome dragon, who agrees to take her on. Contrary to popular beliefs, not every dragon wants a princess.

"It has to do with status. Dragons aren't required to have princesses, you see. Most of us don't. There are never enough to go around, and some of us prefer not to have to deal with the annoyances that come with them."
"Knights," Cimorene guessed.
"Among other things," Kazul said, nodding. "So having a princess in residence has become a minor mark of high status among dragons."
"A minor mark?"
Kazul smiled. "I'm afraid so. It's the equivalent of, oh, serving expensive imported fruit at dinner. It's a nice way of showing everyone how rich you are, but you could make just as big an impression by having some of those fancy pastries with the smooth glazed icing and spun-sugar roses."

Fortunately, thanks to her education, she is as well-equipped to cataloguing draconian libraries as well as she is whipping up an excellent dessert (Cimorene specializes in making cherries jubilee).

Instead of being princessy and spending her days embroidering and doing stupid shit like that, Cimorene now spends her days cleaning out the dragon treasure troves, cataloging (and polishing) old dragon treasures (some of them magical!). Along the way, she has to deal with the constant stream of idiotic Knights and Princes who want to rescue her (does anyone bother asking Cimorene if she wants to be rescued? No.), entertaining some other fluffy-headed fellow princesses

"I'm Cimorene," Cimorene said. "I don't need comforting, and I'm not particularly sad or sorry to be here, but if you'd like to come in and have some tea, you're welcome to."
The first two princesses looked as if they would have liked to be startled and appalled by this announcement but were much too well bred to show what they were feeling.

...among whom she unexpectedly finds a good friend, and dealing with, among other things, a jinn, a killer bird, a witch with many cats (or more appropriately, cats and their witch), and some wascally wizards. There is magic. There is mystery. There is a potential threat to the dragons for whom Cimorene has come to care deeply.

The Setting, the Plot, All That Good Stuff: This is a very short book, and there is not a single dull moment. There is not a lot of introspection, but there is an exceeding display of Cimorene's competency. She is a person of action, and she fills the book with her energy. The book is driven by Cimorene's initiative, and she is always on the move, be it finding a fire-proofing spell in an ancient spellbook, or outwitting some poor Prince Charming's misguided attempt to rescue her, to fooling some nefarious wizards who think she is a typical princess. The setting is magical, but it is not exceedingly detailed, just enough to build up the imagination.

The Main Character: Cimorene and her dragon are the stars of this book, and they make me love it. I recommended this book for young readers, and it is just so darned appropriate for an impressionable young woman. She is an awesome main character. She is book-smart, and she is not perfect. She is a librarian at heart, a researcher who relies on her skills in research and her thirst for knowledge rather than outright brilliance. Cimorene is relatable and reliable, smart, witty, absolutely pragmatic and practical without ever becoming bitchy and annoying in the least. And however resourceful Cimorene is, she knows when to call for help when she needs it.

Every young girl should have a copy of this book (and this series).