Once upon a time, in a realm not so different from our own, a certain type of heroine began to emerge from the realms of fantasy, turning heads and capturing hearts.
With a wave of a magic wand and a flick of a quill, the princess protagonist was born. Since then, it’s been “happily ever after” in the land of fantasy fiction.
But what’s the real fairy dust behind the appeal of princesses as in fantasy stories? Is
it the glittering tiaras, the brocade gowns, or the limitless supply of chocolate from the royal pantry?
But let’s dig a little deeper and you’ll see it’s not all about pumpkin carriages and glass slippers.
Stories are About Change
First and foremost, there’s the notion of transformation.
Everyone loves a good makeover story, right?
From ragged Cinderella to radiant princess, it’s the oldest trick in the book.
Even if the transformation is less literal—say from timid princess to fearless leader—it’s always satisfying to witness a character’s growth, especially when they end up with a crown on their head and a kingdom at their feet.
Next on the docket, we have the “royal package.”
What we’re talking about is the complex weave of royal drama, intrigue, and power dynamics.
These elements offer a deliciously rich broth of plot possibilities, from cloak-and-dagger conspiracies to forbidden love stories.
It’s like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get (unless, of course, you’re a princess. Then you probably have someone to pre-sort your chocolates for you).
Desire Verus Duty
Then there’s the matter of responsibility. With great power comes…a lot of paperwork, apparently.
The princess protagonist is not just a lady of leisure. She is a ruler-in-waiting, and with that comes the weight of the world.
The conflicts and challenges she faces allow us to explore themes of duty, sacrifice, and leadership.
It’s the perfect recipe for character development and stirring storylines.
It’s the Setting, Darling
And let’s not forget the glittering royal backdrop.
Who wouldn’t be mesmerised by towering castles, enchanted forests, or even a bit of dragon drama?
These fantastical settings provide the perfect stage for our princess to strut her stuff, and a healthy dose of escapism for us, the humble reader. It’s like a holiday without the hassle of packing.
The Diversity of Princesses
It’s worth noting that princess protagonists are not stamped from a single mould.
We have a delightful assortment of princess personalities, each adding their own unique sparkle to the narrative crown.
Let’s meet some, shall we?
1. The Reluctant Royal
In the annals of fantasy fiction, this princess would rather go barefoot in the park than be corseted and courted.
She’s a free spirit, often uncomfortable with the pomp and circumstance of royal life.
Aerin from Robin McKinley’s “The Hero and the Crown” is a fine example.
Despite being a princess, Aerin has no interest in the royal court’s intrigue and instead becomes a dragon-slaying hero.
2. The Warrior Princess
Don’t let the royal title fool you, these princesses are fierce, independent, and not afraid to take up arms when the kingdom’s at risk.
Ever heard of Princess Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede’s “Dealing with Dragons?”
She refuses to be a damsel in distress and runs away to live with dragons, learning magic and sword-fighting along the way.
3. The Strategist
This is a princess who uses her wit and cunning to navigate court politics and protect her kingdom.
Take Kelsea from “The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen.
She’s more likely to be found with a book than a sword, but her knowledge and intelligence make her a formidable ruler.
4. The Undercover Princess
Sometimes, our princess must hide her identity for the sake of safety, intrigue, or a good plot twist.
“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas gives us Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who *spoiler alert* doesn’t reveal her true royal identity until later in the series.
And when she does, it’s a game-changer.
5. The Born Leader
These princesses are destined to rule, showing leadership skills and an innate sense of justice from an early age.
In Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series, Alanna of Trebond disguises herself as a boy to train as a knight.
Her journey is not only about personal achievement, but also about becoming a leader who can inspire and guide others.
10 Fantasy Books with Princesses as Main Characters
Whether they’re battling dragons, solving royal mysteries, or navigating the treacherous waters of court politics, these princesses truly rule the roost.
Here are some fantasy books with princesses as main characters:
1. “The Hero and the Crown” by Robin McKinley
As previously mentioned, our protagonist Aerin is an unconventional princess who’d rather slay dragons than sip tea at courtly gatherings. A Newbery Medal winner, this novel is a must-read for lovers of adventure and strong heroines.
2. “Dealing with Dragons” by Patricia C. Wrede
In the first book of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Princess Cimorene finds her royal duties terribly dull. So, she runs away to live with dragons, and along the way, manages to turn the princess stereotype on its head.
3. “The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen
Kelsea Raleigh must reclaim her deceased mother’s throne and rebuild her kingdom. A gripping tale of power and politics, this book combines elements of fantasy and dystopian fiction.
4. “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, but she’s also a princess in hiding. This thrilling series is filled with action, romance, and plenty of plot twists.
5. “Alanna: The First Adventure” by Tamora Pierce
In this first installment of the Song of the Lioness series, we meet Alanna of Trebond, a princess who defies the gender norms of her time to become a knight.
6. “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik
In this loose retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, we follow the journey of Miryem, a moneylender’s daughter who gets entangled with the icy Staryk king. Though not a princess from the start, her story is worthy of royal status.
7. “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier
Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, must undertake a perilous journey to save her brothers. While not explicitly a princess, Sorcha’s story is deeply embedded in elements of classic fairy tales and fantasy novels.
8. “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore
In the Seven Kingdoms, some people are born with a Grace—a unique, often supernatural, skill. Katsa, niece to the king and thus a princess of sorts, was unfortunately graced with killing. Rebelling against her royal role, she sets out on a journey of self-discovery and epic adventure.
9. “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale
A retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this novel follows Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra of Kildenree as she’s betrayed by her own people and must become a goose girl to survive. It’s a captivating tale of resilience and reclaiming one’s identity.
10. “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon
In this sweeping epic, we follow several characters, one of whom is Queen Sabran the Ninth who must conceive a daughter to protect her realm. Meanwhile, Ead Duryan is a lady-in-waiting with a secret mission to protect the queen. It’s a tale packed with dragons, magic, and a unique matriarchal society.
Each of these books adds a unique dimension to the idea of a princess protagonist, breaking the conventional mould and serving up some hearty, unforgettable adventures.
Be prepared for some late nights—these books are hard to put down!