We generally envy a young girl placed in a position of power and influence. For some reason, there’s this belief that they came by it through luck and/or family connections. And there is a bit of truth in that. However, luck and “accident of birth” can only take one so far.
In reality, these ladies (whether they be celebrities or children of kings, presidents or rulers) have a standard they have to live up to. And while the actual meeting of the standard varies for each individual, I believe each one of them worked hard to get to where they are. A lot of sweat, tears and time were sacrificed to gain the level of success they’ve achieved.
Sure, poverty is usually the furthest of their concerns. But when the “princess” is a daughter of prominent parents or is prominent in her own right, she becomes a target for whatever reason. Reasons such as a group of people objectifying her into a symbol of everything they detest or unscrupulous individuals wanting to get at her love ones through her. Basically, she is treated the same as any powerless individual as she is seen as a mere pawn.
Doesn’t matter if she spent hours honing her accomplishments. She’s still seen as something to be used to further another’s gain.
The following selections pretty much tell you that being on top (and staying there) is no easy feat. But in spite of many people trying to bring her down or using her for their own purposes, the “princesses” in these books are fighters. This is not to say that the princess is simply a rebellious action girl who will kick her enemy’s ass. Not necessarily.
The path to the “happy ending” doesn’t always require physical fights. Sometimes, it requires a broadening of horizons and seeing things in a different light. In some circumstances, a princess is left with no other choice but bad ones. But the princess “fights” by making the best of the situation.
So without further ado, here are some book recs:
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
While Kestrel is no actual princess, her father is a high-ranking general instrumental in conquering the Herrani. Thus, she has a very high standing among her people. Kestrel is very intelligent and has a great knowledge of military strategy. This, however, is not enough for her father, who wants her to enlist in the army.
Kestrel is reluctant to kill. But with the only other choice for her is marriage, she does feel like she’s living on borrowed time. While no great fighter, she proves to be able to out-think any opponent that comes her way
Her life takes a dramatic turn when she purchases Arin, a Herrani slave who (unbeknownst to her) is pursuing his own agenda in the General’s household.
This is one of the best novels I’ve read. I actually listened to this on Audible and it actually helped me take a few more laps around the park! The story and the characters are so engrossing that I think I exceeded 5km that day!
Also highly recommended for romance lovers! There’s no magic in this world. But the historical fiction lover in me loves this book for the rich creation of cultures and their inevitable clashes
The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Sharzhad may have married the Caliph. But that doesn’t mean she has immunity from execution. In fact, being the wife of the Caliph is pretty much a death sentence in her kingdom. So she has to use her wits to live another day.
This is a retelling of Scheherazade of 1001 Nights fame! And I highly recommend it for fans who like opulent and luxurious and just plain rich settings. And also romance lovers should try this book out! Because wow! I pretty much finished this book within a day!
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Mirabella, Katharine and Arsinoe are triplets. Daughters of the previous queen. However, their island’s custom only requires the crowning of one queen, with the other two dead by the survivor’s hands. Each sister is raised separately from the other. And while they would not (under normal circumstances) want to kill their own sisters, each has been told repeatedly that they have to kill or be killed.
Certainly a dark and yet intriguing synopsis. I was surprised by how engrossed I was by the story. Each sister is well -fleshed out IMO. And I really hope none of them die in the end. But the island’s magic and their people’s customs seem to goad them into what seems to be an inevitable conclusion.
The romance(s) in this book didn’t interest me (TBH). But I think it’s because it is at the back-burner of the story. It really focuses more on the sisters and the friendships they forge with the people who support them. And that’s what I’m reading this book for
Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The death of her uncle (the king), her father and mother catapulted Princess Benevolence into the role of heir to the throne. Unfortunately, Princess Ben chafes at Queen Sophia’s (her uncle’s wife) control. The queen wants her to lose more weight and to learn more of the feminine arts. Things that she doesn’t care for.
I enjoyed this book because the characters here are not two-dimensional. The book lets us know that there is a reason for why princesses must be graceful and gracious. And I love it’s take on how much work the role of being a princess is. She has to learn many things to effectively rule and promote relations between kingdoms. And thus ensure peace in her kingdom
I thought this is perfect for young princesses-to-be ages 8-14 (But that’s just my opinion)!
Radiance by Grace Draven
Princess Ildiko, niece of the king, is given into marriage to Prince Brishen, second prince of the Kai. The Kai are a humanoid race but of a different species that it’s been observed that human-Kai marriages produce no children. But both have agreed to be friends and make the most of their situation.
Thus, even though they consider the other “ugly” (due to different standards of beauty), they get along very well. Unfortunately, they have to deal with one conniving mother-in-law and a looming war.
Ok. So this book needs more love. This is no love-at-first-sight book. But if you’re a fan of the slow-burn romance where the two characters gradually fall in love after getting to know the other better, then this is the book for you. This also pretty much made me realize that being the wife of a prince does not mean you’re sitting pretty at a castle.
It has its set of responsibilities that include managing a household and taking care of accounts. A prince’s wife would also have to concern herself with what to feed guests and where to house them. It’s definitely a role that needs a certain amount of education and experience.
Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Danica becomes heir to her mother (the leader of Avian shifters) after all her older siblings die from a generations-old war with the serpiente (serpent shifters). But one day, she receives a request of peace from the enemy. This peace requires her to marry the leader of the hated enemy, Zane.
So not only does Danica have to deal with whether she should trust Zane and to accustom herself with the serpiente’s vastly different culture, she also has to work with Zane to prevent their people from killing each other.
Honestly, I love the enemies-to-lovers trope. And I really hope more people will read this book and discuss it with me! But I really would not want to be in Danica’s shoes! I mean, her responsibilities as a leader clearly require her to make a lot of sacrifices that are “uncomfortable” to say the least! 🙂