Review: Princess Ahira

Title: Princess Ahira
Author: K. M. Shea
Format: Ebook

The Plot: On her sixteenth birthday, Ahira, an unconventional princess, is abducted by dragons and becomes the personal captive princess of Azmaveth, a friendly duke of the dragons. During her stay among the dragons, Ahira has several adventures and befriends Azmaveth’s human steward, Kohath, and a wizard, Aaron. When war (led by the Valkyries) looms over the dragons, Ahira must find a way to help her new friends.

The Verdict: Princess Ahira is not incredibly original and has several flaws, but is eminently likable and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the friendships between Ahira and Azmaveth and Ahira and Kohath, although I found Shea’s treatment of most female characters irritating.

The Score: 3.5/5

The Bad:

1. Sexism. Most of the female characters in Sheas novels get short shrift. While her protagonists are smart and capable, they’re rare among the women in their verses. Most of her women/girls are either boy-obsessed weirdoes (such as the blonde princess in this novel) or evil (and slutty, such as the Valkyries, on whom Ahira looks down for wearing miniskirts). With the exception of a character in a bonus short story included at the end of the updated version of this novel, Ahira is the only female character who gets serious face time but is clearly supposed to be a likable, non-antagonistic character.
2. This novel could have used some serious proofreading. Apart from several grammar mistakes and places where the author used the wrong word, there is one egregious mistake where Kohath is called by another character’s name in a dialogue tag, which jarred me out of the scene and ended up being a bit confusing later on.

The Meh:

1. A lot of the story seems inspired by Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons series (an excellent children’s series from the 80s), and the first quarter or so in particular seemed pretty derivative. However, the story does find its own feet later on, and Shea introduces some characters and situations that set it apart from the other series.
2. Throughout the story there are several references to fairy tales, including Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Although it’s a neat idea, Shea doesn’t quite pull it off; these bits don’t come into the plot and are never mentioned again, so they feel more like snippets from other stories that intruded into this one.
3. You can see pretty much every plot twist coming.

The Good:

1. This was the sixth novel by Shea that I’ve read, but it had the most realistic romance of them, and I really enjoyed seeing the different friendships Ahira formed. They were, for the most part, sweet and made sense for the characters.
2. Tuggles. Tuggles is introduced as a miniature unicorn who enjoys snuggling in Ahira’s lap and gallops around the woods like a big shih tzu. He is an adorable creature and a fantastic creation.
3. There were some bizarre but awesome moments of hilarity, although my favorite was the afternoon spent with the princesses. It felt like a Twilight Zone episode written as a comedy.
4. I really liked the fact that, although Ahira isn’t especially happy with her life back home, she still misses her brother and hopes he’ll come and ‘rescue’ her…eventually.
5. It’s just a flat-out entertaining read. Ahira and her friends are generally likable, the setting is pretty neat, and between Ahira’s slice-of-life adventures as a dragon’s princess and the overarching threat of war, the story zips along at a good clip and keeps you engaged until the end.
6. The new, updated version features a short story set after the novel which not only explains the ‘why’ behind a character who acted strangely during the novel, but gives Ahira a female friend who is a nice, intelligent human being, and the short actually passes the Bechdel Test. I really enjoyed it.

The Rec: Although Princess Ahira is not without flaws, including some sexist tropes, it is an interesting story with a lively protagonist, and I would recommend it to readers who are fond of light fantasy.

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