Ivy is a princess in a small southern kingdom with a standard tower/dragon treaty in place: she has to go into the locked tower at 14, be guarded by a dragon from the local flock (clan? herd? flight?), and wait for a prince to show up. Said prince must defeat the dragon to win the kingdom’s throne, the dragon’s hoard, and Ivy’s hand in marriage. If a prince is killed by the dragon, she must wait for the next prince. If she gets too old, let’s hope she has a younger sister to take her place.

Motherless Ivy wasn’t told about this until she turned 12, and she’s not been raised as the most delicate of females, but her father–the absent minded king–has put his foot down.  And when she turns 14, a suitor dutifully shows up from a northern icy kingdom.  He’s a handsome and condescending second son, who wants to use the forests in Ivy’s kingdom to take over his brother’s kingdom.

When her father won’t listen to warnings of her suitor’s intended treachery, Ivy decides to escape the tower the night before the challenge in search of her fairy godmother. On her way down the twisted bedsheets, she runs into Elridge: the dragon. Elridge is smaller than most dragons, can’t blow fire, and isn’t looking forward to being the sacrifice on the following morning.

Ivy and Elridge team up but they only have one night to find Ivy’s fairy godmother and find a solution to their problem before prince will show up to challenge for his right to the throne–can they make it back by dawn?

The Good:

This is a welcome  new addition to the non-insipid  princess stories.  Ivy is a blend of mischief, humor, and confusion as she’s facing a coming of age that she wasn’t prepared to have. Elridge has a wry sense of humor, fully admitting his own comebacks but willing to charge out on a potentially treacherous adventure. He also has a very special but very small hoard. Add in a fierce Dragon Queen and a talking goat with an attitude for a rollicking set of characters.

The Bad:

I had trouble empathizing with Ivy’s fairy godmother, who abandoned Ivy after her mother’s death and couldn’t be bothered to check in on her goddaughter.

Who is it for?

Give it to the girls who look at you funny when you suggest a “princess book.” Give it to parents looking for something girly but not vapid.  Pair it with Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and hand it to kids looking for a good, quick story with a funny dragon.