M.M Kaye says in her introduction that she wrote this story because she noticed the trend of blonde haired, blue eyed, slightly vapid princesses in fairy tales. She wondered how a prince would react to a very ordinary girl, and so she set out to write it. (We also have some lovely illustrations by the author included as well!)
Princess Amy is the seventh princess, and excitement is high in the kingdom. Great things always come to seventh princesses, as they are said to be the luckiest and most beautiful. The King and Queen saddle the poor child with seven names, all starting with “A.” Seriously, Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne is a mouthful! (To be fair, the country is called Phantasmorania, which kind of sounds like the name of a phobia, but I digress.) Now, everyone is all about asking everyone to the christening, including all the fairies, because bad things happen when a fairy is left out. The King objects, on the grounds that bad things happen when fairies are involved at all, and no fairies were invited to the christenings of his other daughters, but he is overruled. And indeed the last and most powerful fairy at the christening bestows a gift that at first seems like a curse. The princess receives the gift of Ordinary. (Now, we all know that this will probably turn out for the best. A lot of people want to be ordinary, especially those who are not. And a lot of people who say they want to be extraordinary would really not do well with that ‘extra’ added on.)
(Since the author was turning fairy tales on their heads, she put in some fairly silly rules. The succession, for example. The next king is the youngest son of the eldest princess. But what happens if the current king dies before his daughters have children? What happens if the eldest princess has another son after one has taken the throne? What happens if none of his daughters have sons, or if none of them have children at all? And yes, I know, fairy tale rules and all that, but still!)
Princess Amy grows up kind of lonely. Since she is not beautiful like her sisters, she is mostly ignored. She spends most of her days sneaking out of her room to play in the forest with the woodland creatures instead of being waited on by courtiers and throwing a golden ball, the only game her sisters play. She has a happy childhood, but doesn’t notice the neglect. A child reading this story might not notice it either. Everyone is focused on Amy’s appearance instead of her happiness.
After Amy’s last sister gets married, all thoughts turn to her marriage. But princes tend to be shallow, vain creatures, and no one really gives any serious thought to marrying Amy once they see her. (Keep in mind, she’s not ugly, just ordinary!) One of the King’s chancellors comes up with a solution of putting Amy in a tower and having a prince kill a dragon to save her. Everyone thinks this is a marvelous plan, but then Amy learns of it, and decides to run away instead.
The second half of the book is her ‘adventure’ after running away, which kind of just seems like getting on with life. Amy learns how to be an ordinary person, and is fairly happy with that. She has a goal and is determined to see it through. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if she had stayed on the path she had originally chosen.
All in all, it’s a lovely story, and I highly recommend it!