The Princess Will Save You is the feminist fantasy adventure of the summer
Sarah Henning’s The Princess Will Save you is the feminist version of The Princess Bride we never knew we needed. And it’s great.
While we all know and love the classic movie – and novel! – The Princess Bride, one of the things that’s easy to ask ourselves is: What would happen if Buttercup was the one who got to do all the adventuring?
That’s basically the gist of Sarah Henning’s The Princess Will Save You, a novel that’s simultaneously a Princess Bride homage and its own adventure tale. (Plus, have you seen this gorgeous cover? Swoon!)
It follows the story of Princess Amarande of Ardenia, a smart, kindhearted, and capable fighter who’s been raised by her warrior father to be the opposite of a diminishing wallflower. But when King Sendoa dies unexpectedly, her life is turned upside down.
Because despite how freethinking her father may have been in life, he never actually go around to changing the laws of succession, and if Ama wants to claim her rightful role as queen, she must marry first. Ama, naturally, doesn’t think she needs to ally herself with a man to lead her kingdom and refuses to do so. Instead, she chooses to take her case to the people and attempt to prove that she deserves to rule in her own right.
But when a political rival kidnaps the family stableboy – and Ama’s childhood friend – Luca in an attempt to force her to marry the prince of their choice, the princess realizes two things. One, she’s desperately in love with this boy who is also her best friend. And, two, she’s more than capable of getting him back herself.
Ama’s search for Luca is both exciting and exhilarating, as she learns much about who she is and what she wants. (And how sheltered her life has been, both in terms of her own experiences and what she understands about the world around her.) As she traverses some of the most dangerous parts of the continent on the hunt for her true love, Ama will find herself pushed to the limits of her strength and smarts, and forced to make some difficult choices along the way.
As heroines go, Ama is instantly likable: Fierce, kind-hearted, yet still willing to sacrifice anything for the things she cares about. Plus, though she has plenty of strengths, Henning doesn’t fall into the trap of making her a perfect character, and Ama makes plenty of mistakes and poor decisions along the way. But she’s also a fighter, and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes her in the next installment in this series.
Fair warning: There’s one segment toward the end of the novel that piles on the Princess Bride references with a trowel, so much so that it’s difficult to get through without laughing. I mean, I love the original book/film more than most people, but still really could have done without such a direct, multi-chapter recreation of the Pit of Despair scene. Particularly when it didn’t really advance the story in any meaningful way.
That said, Ama manages to gather her own unique cast of supporting characters around her and ends up with an appealing set of mysteries to solve. Who was her father, really? What was his real relationship with the Warlord? And why did he – a man who always planned ahead – fail to figure out a way to give his daughter the very power he spent his life training her to wield?
Still, the most interesting part of The Princess Will Save You isn’t how closely it mirrors the beats of William Goldman’s famous story. It’s what’s going to come afterward. Because this is the first book in a series, and it ends at what is both a very familiar and unfamiliar point.
As you’ve probably guessed, the title is true – Ama does manage to save her love, in true swashbuckling style. But she also learns some difficult and painful truths about the father she loved, and the kingdom she’s set to rule along the way, How she will respond to those things is the true question of the story, and what makes the prospect of a sequel so exciting. (In some ways, more exciting than this novel, a fun time though it was.)
Because, after all, we know the ending of The Princess Bride. But what about what comes after? What happens after the rescuing’s done and true love’s declared?
I can’t wait to find out.
The Princess Will Save You is available now. Let us know if you add it to your summer TBR!