REVIEW: ‘The Princess Will Save You’ by Sarah Henning is a passionate feminist fantasy

 

Sarah Henning cleverly subverts the traditional damsel-in-distress tropes we’ve come to know and loathe.

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The Princess Will Save You grabbed me with its feminist power, but made me stay for its interesting world.

From the Blurb:

A princess. A stable boy. A quest.

When her father dies, Princess Amarande is given an ultimatum: marry the leader of one of the four neighbouring kingdoms, or lose her crown — and possibly her life. And to force her hand, her beloved, the stable boy Luca, is kidnapped.

But Amarande was raised to be a warrior, not a sacrifice.

And nothing will stop her from saving her true love and rescuing her kingdom.

The Princess Will Save You is set in a fantasy kingdom where women can only rule if they are married. Upon her father’s death, Princess Amarande is told by her council that without marriage to one of the neighbouring kingdoms, she cannot have access to her throne — her birth-right.

Feeling shocked and betrayed, Amarande seeks a loophole, but is stopped in her tracks when her love — Luca, the stableboy — is kidnapped. She is given an ultimatum: marry one of the suitors, or never see him again.

From the get-go, I felt the full force of the passionate feminism of this novel. Princess Amarande refuses to take no for an answer when faced with misogynistic laws and council members who will not consider a woman ruling by herself. It is an interesting world, though, as clearly women can hold positions of power — General Koldo being the prime example.

I think Sarah Henning has been incredibly clever in the way she has written this novel. She has taken the classic damsel-in-distress trope and flipped it on its head. Not only does this give a voice to every woman who has ever felt snubbed by unfulfilling fantasy stories, but it also highlights the feminist issues still rife in typical fantasy settings today. How often have you read a novel where the heroine is trapped by patriarchal societies, old-fashioned succession laws, the underestimation of women, or her vulnerability to the men around her?

The Princess Will Save You comments on these tropes, and reminds us how easily they could be rewritten.

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Each women in this novel is strong in her own right. Where Princess Amarande perhaps fulfils the classic “strong female character”, we have others who are allowed to be exactly what they are, and are seen as no less strong for it. We have women who scheme, who are reserved, who see the unfair world around them and are hardened by it. As Jo March so eloquently put it: women.

On the other hand, the gender-bent aspect of this novel leaves Luca in the position of the damsel-in-distress. He is kind, loving and faithful to a fault. Henning has also given him some of the agency our traditional damsels so often lack.

I didn’t feel as though his character was completely solidified though. This could be the trope coming into play: typically the damsel is a silent prize for the hero and, while Luca is far from silent, he feels a lot less rounded than Princess Amarande. Some may argue this stems from incomplete writing, but I believe it serves the highlight the problems with the damsel-trope.

It is clear this novel has come from a place of passion and anger. Anger at being denied the amazing women I have been lucky enough to grow up reading about in YA. I resonated with many of the scenes, and I know many young girls and women will feel their frustrations being vented in this novel.

On the downside, I do feel as though the plot was rushed into a little. There is only a small window to orient yourself in the world and get a feel for the characters before the main action occurs. However, once I settled in, I really enjoyed the story.

The Princess Will Save You is an excellent read for young girls and women because it shows them that you can fight against inequalities. Unfortunately, it is something many women will face in their lifetime but thankfully we now have novels such as this to show us that this needn’t be the case forever.

I had a lot of questions on coming the end of the book — but that’s okay because luckilly there will be a sequel released next year!

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Look out for our interview with Sarah Henning, coming to Bookmarked soon!

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Clever and fierce

4
Plot
Characters
Writing
Theme/Message

Plot: fairly traditional and expected, with a few extra layers to maintain interest.

Characters: an excellent demonstration of how silly traditional damsel-in-distress stories sound.

Writing: could be more sophisticated but entertaining nonetheless.

Theme: a powerful, passionate expression of the rage of women.

Eleanor is an English graduate and Medieval Studies student looking to use her skills to help save the planet. She adores reading and knows books will always be at the heart of her life, no matter where her career takes her.

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