"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 have slowly been making my way through a long list of fantasy fiction books I have wanted to read or reread. Dealing with Dragons is one of those re-read upbeat books; possibly it was “the” book that honestly got me hooked on reading.
I cannot sing enough praises about this fast-paced book, in particular for its excellently written main character. This is one of the best “fractured fairy tales” I have ever read. It's approachable, fun, and at the time was fairly different in standing a lot of tropes on their head with its women of steel characters that save the day.
In a banter-filled fairy tale world filled with knights, wizards, dragons, and the like, a young princess Cimorene grows tired of her life at the castle, and is increasingly fed up with everyone deciding what her life should be like. One day she finally runs away and willingly lets herself be captured by a group of dragons so she can live with them in this engaging writing style.
The most kind and reasonable of the bunch, Kazul, agrees to take her in. In exchange Cimorene cleans, cooks, and does other such duties for the dragon. This begins a series of funny misadventures as our teenage girl carves out a new independent life for herself while chasing away knights and princes, befriending witches, and foiling an evil wizard plot. This story does a fantastic job of the “princess twists the fairy tale” type of story. It does not rely on pop culture jokes but is instead funny just by the simple act of taking the usual runaway teenager clichés and messing with them. Cimorene is one of the best examples of a strong sixteen-year-old girl. She is smart, capable, knows spells and magic, can hold her own in a fight, but not at the sacrifice of making her unemotional or mean. Our teenage adventurer gets reasonably frustrated and frightened, but powers on through and keeps a cool head. In addition, her insistence of bucking the system leads to a fair share of funny moments not even counting the magical transformation, like her having to correct a knight on his sword technique, or constantly outsmarting a pair of bumbling wizards. The world of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is interesting, with its own set of rules, and wizards and a magic system that is well thought out and does not contradict itself.
Kazul is almost a motherly figure to Cimorene in this action-packed storyline, and though we stick with her the most, all the dragons that appear have unique designs, personalities, and reasonable explanations for why they do not favor princes or wizards, though the dragons do try not to begin the trouble in this world. The world-building fantasyland is very insistent on following “the rules of what’s proper” which makes being turned on its head be for the better through the unlikely friendship of a dragon and her princess.
While this is its own original story, if you like the book or movie “Shrek” or the movie “Hoodwinked” and like seeing fairy tale tropes messed with, then this atmospheric tone is for you. The sequels are just as offbeat and fun if you end up enjoying this world as much as I do.