Book review: Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede 1990)

There are no spoilers in this review beyond the first couple chapters.

Rating: 5/5

Dealing with Dragons is a humorous young adult fantasy book, the first in a four book series. I first read it when I was in middle school, and I just recently reread it. I enjoyed it greatly when I was younger and it was a fun little excursion now. I wanted to read something light that wouldn’t distract me too much from my own writing projects. This book was perfect for that.

The main character of the story is Cimorene, a smart and unconventional princess who is tired of the dullness of her life of embroidery and batting her eyelashes. To avoid a marriage to a dull prince, she leaves home to go live with dragons. In this universe, dragons keep princesses as helpers as a status symbol, and this is why princes are always saving princesses from dragons. Cimorene’s dragon sees the advantage to a sharper princess who can actually be a useful helper. Along the way, Cimorene learns about dragons, wizards, witches, and many magical things.

Many of the people Cimorene encounters are hung up on doing things the way they are expected to, often without any real additional reason. The story uses sly humorous references to familiar fairytales, such as sleeping beauty and St. George the dragon slayer, to explain why these various characters feel their obligations. Cimorene often succeeds because she thinks about the best course of action, she doesn’t just do what is expected.

For that reason, I think it would be a good book for kids, like it was for me. Kids get too hung up on how people will think of them, and not always with bad reason. Other kids can be eager to harshly deliver this message. In adulthood, what makes you different is usually valuable. Adults have to help kids resist the pressure to always conform. It’s also a good book for adults because it is a lovely and swift read. The whole book is only 212 pages long, and those are fast-moving pages. It would not be hard to finish this book in an evening.

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