Author: Cora Foerstner
My rating: 4.2 stars
The princess and heir to the throne, Gwendolyn expects to follow in her father’s footsteps. The king is a strong leader, with a talent for manipulating people into obedience. Gwen doesn’t believe in stories of dragons, but when one flies over her castle and speaks to her, Gwen must choose to remain allied with her father, who would kill the dragons, or to betray him and leave her sheltered and pampered life behind and seek out the dragons to discover the truth of their history and place in society for herself.
Gwendolyn was the first proper princess I’ve read in ages. She’s not a pretty airheaded figurehead. She’s got a sharp witty tongue and knows how to use it. She keeps her friends close and speaks arrogantly and with authority to everyone else. It’s so refreshing to see a character who weilds her royal position as a weapon instead of acting like an everyday teen. Yes, she’s still a normal girl, but only in private. Even among her friends, she remembers her position and tries to balance friendship with authority. She’s only about 15, but acts very maturely, as if she were five years older.
Gwen begins as a self centered princess, with an idealized view of the common people and their certain love of her, but after a dragon shows up and events cause her to leave the castle, Gwen comes to question her father’s beliefs and methods of monarchy, and to rethink her own views on life and the type of leader she’d want to be. Most of all, she faces her ingrained prejudices and is forced to reevaluate them outside the walls of her sheltered castle life.
The characters were very well developed, especially Gwen. She had a close relationship with her teacher and father figure, and a longtime friendship with a servant boy that, thankfully, wasn’t butchered into a romance like most boy-girl friendships undergo in such books. This book was a character journey for Gwen, interspersed with dragons and magic and peppered with a varied cast of side characters.
One of the best of the side characters was a talking hawk named Shell. There were several loquacious animals, most of them helpful to the cause.
This was a really good book with lots of complex characterization. Watching Gwen constantly struggle to reconcile the prejudices she was raised to believe against the truths she discovers is a message that’s extremely relevant in our times. If you’re not coming for any of that, don’t forget that there are dragons, magic, and talking animals.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.