The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
My Synopsis & Thoughts
Princess Amy, although her name really is Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, is as ordinary a girl as you could wish for thanks to a fairy blessing(?) at her christening, and she is ten times more a princess than most of the sparkling, bejeweled, pristine princesses we read about in so many fairy stories. Not to say those types of princesses don't have their place, but there is also a place for princesses like Amy.
Imagine being born as the youngest of 7 daughters and the only one to be ordinary in the sense that she cried as a baby, her hair isn't blonde and curled in perfect ringlets, and that she dislikes any sort of elegant accomplishment like piano or sewing and shudders at the idea of tossing a golden ball around like her sisters do. Neither is she mean-spirited. She bears a distinct fondness for her parents, despite their attempts to turn her perfect like their other daughters, nor does she dislike her sisters, although she probably has great cause. Instead she just wishes she could be herself.
Working as a kitchen maid in the castle, Amy will earn enough money within a year to buy a new gown and so she determines to stay that long and then flit back to the forest, taking Mr. Pemberthy and Peter Aurelious with her, for they live with her now in her shabby little attic room. During her time there, Amy befriends a man-of-all-work named Peregrin who is only just a bit older than herself and who happens to dislike royal customs as much as she does herself. Together they find more and more in common, as Perry joins her on her Thursday afternoons off in the forest and together they build a little hut out of beeches so they can still steal away to the forest during the colder months and be protected by the elements. Amy is so happy, but she cannot hide forever and she can only have her happily-ever-after she faces up to her challenges.
I grew up on fairy tales and so I'm always excited to find a new one, although I do believe children's fairy stories to be much more believable and with far less to prove than ones for teens or adults. Such is the case with The Ordinary Princess which is what makes its moral lessons all the more palatable . . . because the author isn't trying too hard.
Amy is a delightful character. While I do love princesses in all of the traditional fairy tales, I also love the Fairie Tale Theatre version of The Princess and the Pea with a very down-to-earth, laid back princess as the heroine. She's not perfect and she doesn't need to be and Amy reminds me of her. In fact, I almost wish that all princesses or heroines could be like Amy. She manages to be independent without being snide or rude, but best of all, she knows that true beauty isn't about the outside, but what's on the inside.
The Ordinary Princess thoroughly enchanted me. It's a simple, easy read that is only about 100 pages and perfect whether you're a child or a grown-up. There is nothing questionable unless it concerns you that a child might rebel against their parents wishes. Except that Amy doesn't want to marry a prince of her parents choosing, and rightly so. In the long-run, Amy's more like Merida than Aurora, albeit more polite than Merida, and I must applaud M.M. Kaye for her creativity. This story apparently came to her in a blast of inspiration and she wrote it down in a whirlwind without having to change a thing. I've experienced that once before in my writing life and it was something amazing to behold. ❤