Most of us are very familiar with fairy tales. We grow up with them, we watch them in movies, and with the fall season of TV this year, we watch them on network television. Gail Levine Carson has written wonderful books for children which are written like fairy tales with a modern twist, and her most well-known book, Ella Enchanted, was turned into a movie. But Gail Levine Carson isn’t the only author who has written a winning story in this style; The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs is another example, and the one I’ll be writing about today.
The Runaway Princess is about Meg, a girl with big dreams who, unfortunately, is restricted by the fact that she’s the princess of Greeve, a small country with very little money in the treasury and an ambitious prime minister looking to solve that little predicament. When the prime minister comes up with the idea to have a contest among princes for Meg’s hand in marriage, Meg is outraged. She thinks the challenges they must overcome, involving a dragon, a witch and some bandits, are ridiculous and unnecessary, so she comes up with the perfect solution:
“Don’t you see?” Meg asked, suddenly inspired. “We must save them.”
“The dragon. The witch. The bandits. We must save them from the evil princes.”
So off she sets with the help of her best friend, Cam, the gardener’s son, and Dilly, her loyal maid, although you can be sure she ends up making more friends before the adventure is over. While you can sometimes guess what’s going to happen, you might not be able to figure out just how the characters get there; even the most seemingly predictable scrapes they get into don’t end exactly as you might imagine. With all their adventures, you really get to see what these characters are made of. Meg is a funny, sweet and charming main character, and it is easy to root for her, which is what you want in this kind of adventure story.
The book is a really quick read, and while some of the characters aren’t as well-developed, Coombs doesn’t present many one-dimensional characters. As an example, Meg’s mother could very easily have been flat, but instead, we see her talking with Dilly and her daughter, and you grow to quite like the Queen and even sympathize with her; as much as we like Meg, she is quite the handful.
The book wraps up nicely, but it doesn’t feel rushed and it didn’t make me roll my eyes. I was charmed by it, and it’s one I would recommend to anyone who likes fun adventure stories or fairy-tale-like settings. My only complaint is I wish we could have had more time with Cam, who was my favourite character!