The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #2 Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede

For thoughts on how this book relates to teaching erratic student writers, juicy cheeseburgers and the cello sonatas of Samuel Barber click here

Almost every story you read has some root in a story that was already told. The familiar notes of mythology and fairy tales appear again and again in literature, but in those books that start with a familiar structure and then leap into unexpected there’s something special to be found.

That’s what I thought as I sped my way through Dealing With Dragons a local favorite here in Minnesota, and one that my wife Kristina loved when she was young. But this is not simply a childhood favorite, it’s a genuinely pleasurable read–especially when it takes something familiar and fills it with something unique.

The feminist princess is a newer invention, but in Patricia Wrede’s hands it feels fresh (perhaps because, in the ’80s it was). The story of Princess Cimorene’s flight from her family and happy apprenticeship to the dragon Kazul is as familiar as any Disney-fied coming of age story. But there’s an earnestness to Cimorene that feels truly genuine (rather than market-tested as the House of Mouse might make it). Add to this a unique world full of political intrigue, magic, sorcery, battles, true love and even femi-drago-nism and you have a story that surprises you with something new, even as it satisfies you with the story-time magic you loved as a child.

Too often these days what was once unexpected becomes bland and repetitive. Committing yourself to shocking people all the time can’t work. You need the familiarity of classic tropes and standard structures to actually achieve genuine surprise. It is fun to find something different where you expected something familiar. And the wry feminist critiques inside a rip-roaring fairy tale, make this book one of the best examples of that skill that I’ve read in quite some time

2 thoughts on “The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #2 Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede

  1. I read #3 in this series as a kid, and it wasn’t until college that I realized there were three other books. Thanks for the review — makes me want to re-read.

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