Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs get to follow along with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel listing their favorite books with a particular fantasy trope. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
31st July, 2014 – PRINCESSES
PRINCESSES come in two main kinds:
2 Spirited and wilful. Spirited Princesses often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth.
What’s not to love about princesses? Though I do prefer the spirited and wilful variety more than the wimpy one. Anyway, here are a few of my picks.
Sure, Arista was not a favorite of mine at the beginning of this series. She was the classic rich, self-absorbed and a bit clueless (not dumb, just innocent) princess, being the daughter of the King of Melengar and the sister of Alric, the heir to the throne. Heck, she was so naive that she is duped into releasing someone from a magical entrapment, but as the stories go by, Arista develops into an all-around great person: powerful, kind, and caring. Without her, the Riyrian Revelations would not have been as nearly as much fun as it was.
Read my review of the first novel: THEFT OF SWORDS.
2. AERIN OF THE HERO AND THE CROWN BY ROBIN MCKINLEY
This is one of the first strong princesses I recall reading about back in the day. I’ve never forgotten her, but I don’t think I could describe her better than the Goodreads blurb of the book.
Although only child of Damar’s king, and best friends with heir Tor, Aerin is “the only pale-skinned redhead in a country of cinnamon-skinned brunettes”. When convalescing, she reads about fighting dragons, experiments with kenet herbal dragonfire-proof burn ointment, and learns to ride her father’s old wounded warhorse Talat. After Tor gives her lessons and a sword, her opponents, though small and almost fatal from the first, increase in size and danger. Immortal mage Luthe gives her the Blue Sword Gonturan, relates her true history, and prepares her for a huge battle with evil, but not the discovery of her country’s lost Crown.
3. KEELY DAUGHTER OF THE LION BY JENNIFER ROBERSON
Another strong princess from back in the day, and one with a whole book just about her struggles. Once again, I think the Goodreads blurb describes proud and strong Keely better than I ever could.
She is Keely, twin sister to Corin, and daughter to Niall, the ruler of Homana, and she alone has the power to shapechange into any form—a power akin to that of the Firstborn. Like her brothers, Keely has been chosen to play a crucial part in the Firstborn’s prophecy. Yet Keely is no weak pawn to be used in men’s games of power and diplomacy. Trained alongside her brothers in the art of war, gifted with more of the old magic than most of her close kin, she will not easily give way even to Niall’s commands, nor be forced against her will into an arranged marriage.
But others besides Keely’s father have plans for her future. Stahan, the most powerful Ihlini sorcerer, is preparing a trap from which even one as magically-gifted as Keely may find no escape. And in the deepwood, another waits to challenge Keely—an outlaw fully as dangerous to her future freedom as Strahan is to her life…
Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series is a world spanning affair, heavy on character interaction as well as gritty politics and warfare. The cast of amazing characters Mr. Cook concocts here is rivalled only by his more well-known series: The Black Company, and among the list of stellar heroes and heroines, villains and villainesses portrayed by Mr. Cook is Princess Mist.
Mist is a kickass wielder of magic from The Dread Empire. She was well on her way to become the overlord of all when she sort of lost interest and found herself in love with the wrong man and banished from her home. Finding a sanctuary with King Bragi of the western kingdoms, she sets about plotting and scheming to find herself then find away to return to her homeland and take over the Dread Empire. She is strong, sensual, and one hell of a princess. The only reason she is so far down my list is that she has to share the pages of the series with so many other characters that she never really is the star of the show. But hey, Mist could be the star of my show anytime.
Another princess from the far away olden times of fantasy. You know, back in the 1980s and 1990s before grimdark reigned supreme. Anyway, any list of princesses has to have this Imperial Princess of Tolnedra. She was the daughter of Ran Borune XXIII, Emperor of Tolnedra, and the Dryad Ce’Vanne, and she was know to all the other girls in Tolnedra as the Jewel of the House of Borune, because she was beautiful, smart, cunning, and you damn well better call her what she wanted because her daddy was the Emperor!
Wilful and stubborn, Ce’Nedra runs away from the imperial palace at age 15 to avoid being sent to Riva in accordance with the Accords of Vo Mimbre, thereby beginning an international crisis, but our princess doesn’t really care. After traveling for a time with Belgarath and Polgara’s group, she finds herself attracted to a poor, farm boy named Garion — who later turns out to be a lot more than that.
Throughout the Belgariad, Ce’Nedra slowly turns from a spoiled brat into a powerful woman; eventually strapping on her golden armor and leading the armies of the west to battle the god Torak. Quite the princess and worthy of a shout out on this list.
Read my review of the first book: Pawn of Prophecy.
Another princess from my teenage years. God, I’m beginning to see a trend her. Lol! Be that as it may, Laurana is another willful, courageous, charming and incredibly beauty princess. As the youngest child of the elf king Solostaran, the Speaker of the Sun who rules of the elves of Qualinesti, she was given a lot of freedom by her father and naturally fell in love with the wrong person: Tanis Half-Elven. Not only was Tanis a half-breed but he was also her foster brother. (Damn, isn’t there a law against that or something? Just saying.) Naturally, our princess’ family frowned upon their match, and they are pleased when Tanis decided to leave Qualinesti. Unfortuantely, Laurana promises never to give up on him but remained true to her vow to be with him.
Years later, the two erstwhile lovers meet up again during the War of the Lance, and Laurana goes on to become a commander of armies, a hero in her own right, and Tanis’ significant other. She might not be the bad girl, but Laurana always gets what she wants. Take that Kitiara, you skank!
While that completes my list of “Princesses”, I have to mention a couple of very worthy royal ladies that were not on my list only because they did not fit the fantasy definition of “Princess” that I was working with.
1. MARA OF THE ACOMA IN THE EMPIRE TRILOGY BY FEIST AND WURTS
She was called back from her training when a rival clan kills her whole family. Set up to fail and allow her house to fall into ruin, Mara grabs the reins of power, finding a way (no matter how personally brutal to herself) to strengthen her clan and begin the rise from desolation to preeminence in this amazing world. She plots, bends tradition, avoids assassination attempts and trades her heart for power in order to save the Acoma from destruction. Mara might not be a “princess” but she was an amazing woman, mother, and ruler.
One of the stars of the Dragaeran novels penned by Steven Brust. As the Lyorn Records describe her:
Aliera e’Kieron is a Dragon, the daughter of Adron and Verra. She specializes in sorcery and exercises great skill with a blade. She currently wields the Great Weapon Pathfinder. Her other interests include genetics.
Aliera is short for a Dragaeran. Her eyes are normally green but turn grey or blue when experiencing anger or aggression, as is the mark of an e’Kieron. Her hair is blonde, which is also a characteristic of the e’Kieron line, and is very rare for a Dragaeran – especially a Dragon.
Aliera descends from the most prestigous line of Dragons. That is, her lineage can be traced back to Kieron himself. The three known members of this line (Kieron, Adron, Aliera) are seen, generally, to be arrogant, to operate at an individual code, to be highly ambitious and to posses a firey temper – even for a Dragonlord. Aliera naturally responds with immediate aggression to all shapes and varieties of challenges but has a more open strategic mindset than a Dzur. She is loyal to friends, and secretly holds both her father Adron e’Kieron and her cousin (on her father’s side) Morrolan e’Drien as personal heroes.
When we meet her, she is often annoyed by something or someone.
Aliera is one bad “princess” without a doubt as well as the future ruler of her world. Worth a mention, even though she is not exactly a princess in the normal mold.
3. PRINCESS LEIA OF STAR WARS
No, Star Wars isn’t fantasy. And no, she shouldn’t be anywhere near this list. But you know what? When anyone says “Princess”, Leia is the one I immediately think of. As a teenager I enjoyed her pictures on my wall, and as an adult, I’ve appreciated reading about her in the Expanded Universe books. Leia is everything that a princess should be in my opinion. Plus she looked really good in that metal bikini. Yeah, I went there. Well, not exactly went there, but you know what I mean. God, some of you guys have dirty minds.
Read my review of one book about Leia: RAZOR’S EDGE.
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