I spent the majority of my girlhood impatiently waiting for someone to inform me of my royal status. Perhaps it was too many viewing of the animated musical Anastasia, but I felt the idea of having a secret identity and being whisked away to a land I never dreamed of was terribly romantic. While I have yet to live out of fantasy of being a princess in disguise (I still hold out hope), there has thankfully always been plenty of literature that allows me to escape into a world where it’s possible. Here, are a few of my favorites:
Reader beware, some spoilers ahead.
While most young girls dreamed of learning they had royal blood running through their veins, Mia Thermopolis was horrified to learn of her own prestigious lineage. Already a social outcast who can’t get the guy of her dreams to look her way, the very last thing she needs is a bodyguard following her around and setting her apart when she’s dying to fit in. After being bombarded by the paparazzi, taking princess lessons from her incorrigible grandmother, and getting into her first real fight with her best friend, Mia learns that there’s a lot more to be being a princess than she thought. It can mean learning to stand up for yourself and using your newfound power to enact real and positive change. This series shows a true princess in the making.
There’s a reason Kelsea Raleigh Glynn frequently gets compared to Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games: They’re both undeniable badasses who don’t shy away from a challenge. Kelsea also has a little Mia Thermopolis in her: She doesn’t have the princess “look,” and doesn’t have the social graces, either. But this lost princess, who was raised in seclusion far away from those who would do her harm, doesn’t stay lost for long. Once she comes out of hiding, she must ascend to the throne, keeping in mind her own safety and the wellbeing of her people. One thing’s for certain: Kelsea is a force to be reckoned with, and we pity the fool who crosses her.
Some princesses are handed their rightful titles, while others are forced to take back what is theirs with fire and blood. After the murder of her father, King Aerys II, Daenerys lived in exile in Essos until she was old enough for her brother Viserys to barter with. He sold her to Khal Drogo in exchange for an army so he could take back his father’s throne and become the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. The joke was on him though: Love and mutual respect bloomed between Drogo and Dany, transforming her from a meek girl into a woman with a warrior’s heart. With the support of her three dragons and her Unsullied army, she’s preparing to storm the Seven Kingdoms and resume her rightful place on the Iron Throne.
Sometimes princesses choose to be lost. That is certainly the case in Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception. Lia is everything a strong, female heroine should be: She’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s not afraid to act when things aren’t going her way. At the age of 17, Lia was supposed to marry her prince. For some princesses, this is a dream scenario. But Lia isn’t just any princess: She leaves town and settles in a new village in hopes of starting over on her own terms. But Lia soon learns that the past isn’t so easily left behind: Two strangers arrive in town, and they just may have something to do with what she ran away from.
As fans of the Lunar Chronicles know all too well, Queen Levana is a vicious ruler who isn’t above brainwashing or even committing murder to get what she wants. After her sister Channary died, Levana was named Queen Regent until her niece Princess Selene was old enough to rule. An accidental fire, or perhaps intentional arson, was said to have killed Selene when she was three—making Levana the true Queen of Lunar. But rumors begin to swirl during the first book in this series. Could Princess Selene be alive? Could she have escaped the fire? And, if she is, will she fight for her rightful place on the throne?
Okay, okay. Aragorn is not a princess per se (though we’re game if someone wants to fan art that idea). Still, we felt inclined to include our favorite ranger on this list due to the sheer epicness of his story. After the death of his father, Aragorn’s mother sent him to live with the elves in Rivendell, where he’d be safe from any who sought to harm him. You see, Aragorn was the heir to not one, but two thrones—a fact he wasn’t informed of until he was 20. Knowing that he would one day rule both Arnor and Gondor, Aragorn left Rivendell to join the Rangers of the North. He spent years concealing his identity, training in swordplay, and getting to know his people. Fellowship of the Ring marks the start of a journey that would lead him to his destiny. And by the third and final book, The Return of the King, he… well, the title makes it a bit obvious doesn’t it?