The concept of a monarchial government is, admittedly, mostly outdated and entirely misogynistic in many areas.
Why then are we well-nigh obsessed with the concept? From the incredible success of the Disney princess franchise to the nearly apocalyptic-level response of fangirling over William and Kate’s magical royal wedding and subsequent royal births, we as a culture find ourselves salivating over the possibility that one day, somehow, we will end up as royal progeny.
Perhaps it was a case of mistaken identity, a switched at birth situation, or perhaps it was for our own safety, but we are more than slightly convinced that we are actually a princess in disguise and one day the royal advisor will come to rectify the mistake.
I hate to break it to you, but well, the odds of either of us being an actual princess are only slightly higher than the odds of me winning the lottery—which, while I would figuratively jump over the moon should such a thing occur, I’m not holding my breath. Thanks a lot for the unrealistic expectations, Hollywood.
Now that we’re on the same, I’m-not-a-lost-princess page, I have good book-related news for you.
You’re not a royal princess, but you ARE your own damn princess. It’s time to start acting like one. How, you ask? Well, for starters, I have a few books for you to read. Think of them as your ten-step character primer on being the most adventurous, take-charge, epic princess of them all.
10. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (YA: Fiction)
No list, regardless of the topic, is complete without Anne Shirley. She stole my heart when I was nine years old with her fearless approach to life and her joie de vivre. She tackles the pitfalls and heartbreak of life with flair—from declaring all-out war on her eventual first love to finding a home to match her quirky little self. When I find myself doubting a creative decision, all I have to do is think of her determined face as she declares Barry’s pond to be named “The Lake of Shining Waters.” If she can get away with names like that, then I have no excuse to feel doubt in the face of artistic choices. Really, you should read the entire series…it only gets better.
9. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (YA: Fantasy & Historical Fiction)
Serafina is the child within each of us who shimmied up trees, skinned her knees, wiped the blood off, and kept riding that bike. She’s the child who ran like a wild thing in the outdoors, fought her childish squabbles, and defended her friends with a fierce sense of honor. She’s every adventure we ever had as a child and everything that ever fascinated us about the great outdoors. She is all that is ferocious and free in our inner child—and for that inner child’s sake, you need to read this book.
8. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (YA: Fantasy)
Out of everyone on this list, Cimorene is the princess I most want to be best friends with—she is smart, no-nonsense, best friends with dragons, and a bomb cook. Essentially, she is born into the life of the typical fantasy princess (etiquette lessons, big curls, even bigger treasure chests, and the expectation of an arranged marriage) and decides she’d rather be kidnapped by dragons instead. So she arranges a more interesting life as the cook to the King of the Dragons… and I just want to be her.
7. Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce (YA: Fantasy)
Keladry of Mindelan is the first candidate in hundreds of years to openly attempt to earn her knighthood as a female in the kingdom of Tortall. Every single fantasy you ever had of being a skilled warrior who could hold her own among the very finest in the realm will come to life as you follow Kel through everything her fellow pages, squires, knights, and commanders can throw at her—and admire the grace and strength she shows in each of her responses. If only I could be as cool and collected in the face of daily challenges!
6. Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (YA: Fantasy)
Some of us don’t start as a princess. Some of us have to work our way up to it, and Sophie shows us the way on her path from drab little mouse to take-no-prisoners sorceress. Sometimes when I’m about to do something incredibly dangerous and even more fun (hello, snowboarding and rock climbing), I imagine her attitude before squaring my shoulders and plunging into the experience.
5. Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell (YA: Fairy Tale)
For those of us who aren’t a fan of the traditional fairy tale and the even more traditional “princess meets prince charming” formula, Nicolette, aka “Mechanica,” is the technological, creative princess for you. She is every one of us who has ever had an impossible dream and a talent for doing exactly what she believes is right. I’ve become much less apologetic about following my instincts since reading this retelling of Cinderella.
4. Sabriel by Garth Nix (YA: Fantasy)
While most of the characters on this list fall under the “sweet, wild, and headstrong,” category, Sabriel of the Old Kingdom is none of those things. Perhaps headstrong, but it’s a bit difficult to be sweet when you’re the Abhorsen responsible for putting the dead back down after careless and often evil necromancers and Free Magic beings raise them up for nefarious deeds. When you’re faced with impossible, horrific, terrifying scenarios, she is going to be the princess that sees you through to the unfortunately bitter end. Besides, we could all do with a Mogget to keep us on our toes.
3. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart (Fiction: Mystery)
First of all, any Mary Stewart novel is an old-school guilty pleasure. Her mysteries tend to feature what was, at the time, entirely self-sufficient and witty heroines. Madam, Will You Talk? is no exception with the inclusion of Charity Selborne, a woman who shows us exactly why it is a bad idea to mess with a woman protecting a child. Hint: it doesn’t end up well for the fool who chooses to do so.
2. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MYFANWY THOMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously. That’s basically all you need to know. I mean, if you’re going to be picky, I could say she’s a badass high-level operative in the British secret agency that deals in supernatural threats and, oh yeah, she’s got amnesia and still manages to be the coolest person you’ll never know saved the world. Just read it. I have to go reread it now.
1. Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce
There are only two things you need to know about this book duo. One, it’s written by Tamora Pierce, which means it is full of girl power and warrior prowess. Two, this novel is where the statement, “I am my own damn princess,” can be found. Thus, number one spot.
So straighten up that invisible crown and go get ‘em. The world is yours, princess.