The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes
Author: Francesca Burke
Pages: 196 pages
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: December 2020
Rating: 4.5 stars
On the magical island of the Three Kingdoms, disparaged teenagers quest to save their people from dragons, duplicity and dictatorship. This is a book of fairy tales, but not of happy endings. Don’t expect to fall asleep to sweet dreams when you’re done.
Princess Amelia’s home, the Kingdom of Mirrors, is on its knees, ravaged by the cantankerous Sapphire Dragon. She must find a way to rid her country of its unwelcome guest and work out how to restore its fortunes before her parents marry her off to clear the kingdom’s debts.
Prince Richard of the Valley of Dreams knows he’s not very heroic… he’d rather read about quests than actually go on one. But when he finds himself travelling to a haunted tower, he discovers a treacherous conspiracy that could rip the Three Kingdoms apart… and learns there might be some heroism tucked up his sleeve after all.
Esme Delacroix is a psychic living in Stormhaven, the only part of the Three Kingdoms where magic is taboo. A terrifying vision sends Esme and her friend Violet on a perilous quest that shakes Stormhaven and the Three Kingdoms to its core.
Born in Rochford in 1995, Francesca Burke decided at an early age that the worlds inside
books and television were infinitely preferable to the real one. Initially put off the idea of
being a writer because it requires one to sit alone and ignore people, she now finds sitting alone and ignoring people to be the most satisfying parts of the job. She lives in Southend-on-Sea.
I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
This book is split into three separate stories, and I really liked all three main characters; Amelia, Richard and Esme. The prologue nicely sets the scene with a brief description of the Three Kingdoms and how they came to be. I liked the way this was written as it felt like those voiceovers you hear at the beginning of a fairy tale film! I like the concept of the Three Kingdoms and how all three stories comment on modern day issues such as political tension, cultural diversity and the difficulties of adolescence. This is all done through the main characters and I found it refreshing to have such unique ones.
The first short story is called The Princess and the Dragon and is about Princess Amelia. The Kingdom of Mirrors, Amelia’s home, is ravaged by a dragon and it has caused financial issues for her country. Amelia isn’t your typical hero and she uses her wit and intelligence to come up with a way to defeat the dragon, rather than brute strength. I think it’s important to have these kind of heroes displayed in the media to make it accessible for everyone. I was reading this story and was just thinking, yes girl power!
‘There’s a saying in the Three Kingdoms: sticks and stones may break your bones but they don’t do squat to dragons, so you’d better bring something stronger.’
Prince Richard takes centre stage in the next short story; The Prince in the Tower. Again, Richard isn’t your typical fighter, he doesn’t have the physique of the soldiers around him. Yet he perseveres on his own quest to rid a tower from the supposed ghost that is haunting it. Richard is a bit like me in the sense that I would rather spend my time reading (except I think I would quite like to go on an adventure) and I love that he shows that you don’t need to be a certain way to be a hero that goes on a quest.
‘Mr Snuggles is so you can go to sleep properly, and the sword is so you can stab yourself to death if it looks like you’re going to be taken hostage by the Mad Prince.’
The final short story is called The Businessman’s Daughter. Esme lives in Stormhaven where magic is banned, which is very unfortunate as she is a seer. She lives in an Inn and has to constantly hide her power from the guests. After the events of the two previous stories, conflict is brewing in the Three Kingdoms. Esme meets Violet, a guest, who learns about her magic and they end up taking a quest to uncover a plot against the Valley of Dreams and the Kingdom of Mirrors. I loved the relationship between Esme and Violet and that was one of the plus sides of this story!
‘What have your tarot cards told you?’ ‘That all these secrets of yours will kill you one day.’
I loved the LGBTQ+ representation in this book as Amelia’s older brother abdicated the throne to be with who he wanted to be with. Also Richard and George, my heart! Also, Esme and Violet. My one down side of this book is that it felt unfinished, and I was left wanting more. The ending for me was very unsatisfying but as the synopsis says it’s not a book about happy endings, I’m unsure whether I’m meant to feel like this!
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book and felt like it was refreshing to have some atypical characters take centre stage. If you are a fan of fairy tales then check this out!
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