Ivy's Ever After, by Dawn Lairamore (2010, Holiday House, middle grade, 311 pages)
Ivy is a princess of a tiny kingdom, one that's virtually inaccessible. There she has a had a rather idyllic childhood (with only the shadow of her mother's death long ago, and her father's consequent addle-pattedness, to mar it), enjoying the sort of freedom denied princesses of larger, more important kingdoms. But now that Ivy is approaching her fourteenth birthday, everything changes.
It became clear long ago that Ivy's kingdom has little to offer other principalities, and so it was hard to attract princes to come marry its princesses. But Ivy's kingdom does have one resource, of a sort--there are dragons just to the north, and dragons, as everyone knows, have treasure. To keep bloodshed on both sides to a minimum, a truce had been reached with the dragons. Every princess who was the heir to the throne was imprisoned in a tower, and a dragon came to guard her--tempting bait for any heroic prince who wanted treasure and a kingdom (albeit a tiny one).
And now, generations later, it's Ivy's turn for the tower. Ivy is not at all happy when she learns about this. And she is even less so when a prince arrives early-a truly objectionable prince who sneers unkindly at her kingdom, her father, and herself. When she learns he's simply plotting to use her kingdom as a stepping stone to seizing power back in his own country, and would happily break the truce with the dragons, she is even more appalled.
Her father is oblivious to the truth, and puts her in the tower as custom dictates, but Ivy isn't going to stay put while her kingdom is destroyed. On a rope of sheets and clothes, she climbs down...and almost makes it before falling the last bit.
"Oh dear, oh dear," came a trembly voice very near her right ear. "That was close!"
Startled, Ivy opened her eyes. Her vision filled with an expanse of shiny black skin, scaled like a fish, along with a golden eye as round and wide as the mouth of a soup bowl, which was studying her in distinct alarm.
"Good goat fur," said the owner of the large eye. "I do believe you're actually supposed to stay inside the tower." (page 91)
And so Ivy meets Elridge. A dragon who clearly has no chance of dispatching the objectionable prince, but who is open to the idea of become friends....and gaining the respect of dragon kind by foiling the objectionable princes plans to break the dragon truce. So together Elridge and Ivy set out flee from the tower, desperately seeking Ivy's lost fairy godmother, the one person who might be able to set things right.
Full of action-packed, magical encounters, Ivy and Elridge's quest moves swingingly along. It's a light, fun story, very fairy-tale-ish in feel. Although it didn't, for me, ever become truly enchanting (the light and fun aspects of the book, although diverting, didn't pack that much emotional punch, and the story was not one I found wildly original), it should be enjoyed lots by its target audience. Ivy is a fine figure of a plucky princess, and Elridge, although not a fine figure of a dragon (by draconian standards at least) is a likable and interesting side-kick. Their unlikely friendship makes for entertaining reading.
Also reviewed at Books at Midnight
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)