Author: Garth Nix.
The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic.
Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.
Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.
It was funny for the first chapter or so, but then it got just a little bit bland. Everything was just a little too humorous and stylized for my taste, although I realize that the author did it on purpose, and the message was a little too blatant. Mostly, it felt too much like middle-grade magic, not like Garth Nix fantasy. However, the message was good, even if blatant; princesses are frequent fantasy characters, but it’s not so often we start of with a likeable but privileged princess and see them rethink their values and interpretations. Usually, if they’re somewhat spoiled or over-privileged, they’re not that likeable, and have to be ‘redeemed’. [Name] was never in need of redeeming, but she did show that perfectly nice, well-meaning people can have gaps in their education or misunderstandings of how things work, and can accept changes to their world view with equanimity.
Sexual Content: Retired druids sometimes become a tree with a tree spirit living inside of them – how this works isn’t quite clear, but it is clear that at least one character thinks it’s somewhat inappropriate. Some kissing of frogs (for the obvious reasons).
Violence: Human-transformed-to-mouse dies of heart attack. Evil character turns other characters into frogs. Character shoots an assassin in the shoulder. Weasel/human thing bites girl, and is attacked and bitten by a dog. When a giant threatens to eat a girl, she ties his feet and trips him up, in the process of which he breaks his hip. Character knocks out a guard/cockatrice. An owl/human and wizard fall from a tower together, and the owl/human is killed by the fall.