Fantasy Review: ‘Dealing with Dragons’ by Patricia C. Wrede

I give up.  It has all been done before.  Every single good idea has been taken, even those Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)that just warp old good ideas.  1990.  This book came out in 1990 and gently mocks fairy tale as well as anything I have read or watched that has been written since.  Was Shrek really that original?  Survey says…no.  Every single Neil Gaiman short story is a little less fresh.  Let’s face it, we shut it all down because nothing more needs to put into writing.

Okay, the hyperbole was a bit much but color me just a bit surprised at how enjoyable this one was.  Sure, lots of good recommendations on Goodreads; five stars abound.  But it came out in 1990, surely this is just nostalgia?  Nope, this really was a great little twist on an old tale.  A gentle prodding rather than the crude style currently used of twisting stories so hard that nothing is left but shock value. 

Cimorene really doesn’t enjoy being a Princess.  Unlike her older sisters she doesn’t feel the need to do embroidery until a Prince comes along to sweep her off her feet.  She would rather take fencing lessons (stopped for not being proper) or learn Latin (not proper) or magic (…..) or hell, even just how to cook.  But it just isn’t done, it’s not proper.  So after taking some advice from a talking toad that is NOT a magically transformed Prince, she decides to go join the dragons.  After all, dragons are always stealing away princesses, surely one would welcome a willing captive (and it has to be more exciting that being a princess).

And it is.  Cimorene learns the ways of dragons, meets several mythical creatures, befriends a witch, and gets caught up in the plans of wizards.  While a parody of sorts, this book doesn’t take it’s time resorting to cheap joke after cheap joke.  Rather it crafts an entertaining, if simple plot (hey the book is only 200 some pages), dropping in a mix of twists along with some traditional fairy tale characters and situations.  With a slow but steady pace, a great protagonist and some interesting side characters (some caricatures, but deliberately so), and a conclusion that was as transparent as can be but managed to hide a few details anyway everything in the story worked out nicely for this reader (listener).

If you are a person who likes twisting of tropes, this is a great read.  If you are a person who needs a quick read for a vacation or between epic bricks, this is a great read.  If you want a strong female lead that bucks convention just by acting like an actual human being, this is a great read.  If you are looking for a guidebook of North Atlantic waterfowl, probably not the book you are looking for.  But if you just want to be entertained then jump right in (though judging by my Goodreads profile, most everyone already has).

4 Stars

Audio- As entertaining as this book was on its own, and I will be grabbing a copy for my shelves as my kiddo gets older, please treat yourself to the audio of this book.  This is not an audio book, this is an audio production.  A large cast provides unique voices for each character, all held together by a narrator with perfect pacing.  Clocking in at five hours there is almost no reason not to.


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