Friday, December 4, 2009

Runaway Princess; Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs

Finally! I've been promising a review of Kate Coombs' delightfully fractured fairy tales, Runaway Princess and the new sequel, Runaway Dragon, which I nominated for Cybils. The time has come - seems just right to write about these now that Charlotte's Library is introducing a Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy roundup.

To recap, because it's been a while since the first story.....Princess Margaret (Meg to her friends) is horrified when her father and the prime minster cook up a scheme to improve the country's economic status; offer her in marriage to whoever will destroy the dragon, witch, and bandits! Meg decides to rescue herself - and then rescue the "scourges" of the country. She takes old friends along with her, meets new friends, and discovers that the world isn't as simple as she thought. But her courage and practical thinking pay off and with her friends' help, all ends well.

Now, Meg has a new problem. Her baby dragon is growing up. And like all not-so-young creatures, he wants to try his wings. Meg decides finding Laddy is the perfect excuse for a quest! She's been feeling cooped up in the castle and she's ready for adventure! But how can she have an adventure with her best friends, guardsmen, and her parents all determined to keep her safe? Well, toss in an Enchanted Forest, a suitably malevalent villainess, a few new friends, and a giant, and things get complicated fast! Will Meg ever find Laddy? And what will happen when she does?
These stories are, to me, some of the best examples of middle grade fantasy.

First, you need to hop over and read Laurel Snyder's post on the difference between YA and MG fiction. These stories fit perfectly into that model. Meg is not just going on hilarious and exciting adventures, she's learning about the world and her place in it. I love the humor and craft that goes into Coomb's excellent plots, but the characters are even more fun. Each one learns about themselves, but not in an egotistical I-am-discovering-myself way (um, yeah, I don't really like YA in general. Too self-absorbed). Plus, Coombs has managed to create a believeable and independent fantasy heroine. Too many fantasy heroines are either completely useless wusses, waiting to be rescued, romanced, or guided OR they're unbelievable super girls who never put a foot wrong and get themselves out of every predicament. Meg is just perfectly in-between. She courageous and determined and has lots of skills and good qualities; but she also knows when she needs help and that she has a lot to learn.

Verdict: Fantasy fans who like plenty of humor and strong heroines will fall in love with Meg and her friends. Talk these up to fans of Patricia C. Wrede, Jessica Day George, Sarah Beth Durst, and Gail Carson Levine. These aren't just for girls either; there are plenty of diverse characters of both genders to enjoy and Runaway Dragon in particular divides the story between Meg's adventures and her friends' struggle to escape. Highly recommended!

Runaway Princess
ISBN: 0374355460; Published August 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Runaway Dragon
ISBN: 0374363617; Published September 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library


Charlotte said...

I am very much looking forward to reading these for the Cybils! And thanks for the shout out!


Clearly, I need to scroll all the way down Charlotte's Library more often... Thanks for these very nice reviews, and for the Cybils nomination, too!