This latest blog series all started when a reader recommended Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers as one of their favorites. I’d like to say I promptly ran off the library and picked it up, but in reality, it took a couple of months (and the book sat waiting on my dresser until it was all but overdue) before I read it. When I finally got to it, though, it proved a quick, pleasant read. Its sequel now sits waiting much like the first did. I’ll let its top stereotypes and unique points speak for the rest of it:
Top 3 Stereotypes
1. The country orphan trying to make her way in the big city
The main character, Creel, grew up with country relatives after her parents died, but now is where so many young fantasy heroes and heroines find themselves: all alone in the big city with not a penny nor a friend to her name. Creel is there intentionally, to chase her dream of eventually opening a shop that features the gorgeous embroidery she learned from her mother. In the meantime, she’s stuck with a harsh mistress and some girls who range from rivals to friends.
2. The commoner who falls in with royalty
If the first point didn’t already make this obvious, Creel is a nobody, as far as any social system is concerned. She is an orphan, an apprentice that is hardly more than a servant… and yet remarkably quickly, she becomes a friend to the young prince (and an enemy to a young princess). This seems a favorite theme of children’s books—young main characters almost always fall in with people who are more important than the sort that they seem likely to meet.
3. The coincidental stumbling upon the main plot device
In so many books, there’s no feasible reason for why the main character chances upon the right thing at the right place and time to allow the story to happen. To be fair, some of the best stories in real life do happen when the unlikely happens, but in books, it’s treated like an everyday occurrence. In Dragon Slippers, the dragon slippers themselves are the coincidental plot device. In a huge room full of shoes, Cree finds, chooses, and has the right size feet for the slippers that are an important clue in the human-dragon relations of the story and are so crucial to the plot.
Top 3 Unique Points
1. The varied dragon hoards
These dragons don’t just collect valuable things—each has its own perceived treasure. One collects shoes, another dogs, and another stained-glass windows. I loved this aspect of the book. It gave the dragons an opportunity to stand out as quirky individuals instead of stereotypical gold-hoarders.
2. The idea of being sacrificed to a dragon as a financial aid
Creel’s aunt and uncle, who raised her, are not rich, and so the aunt comes up with a crazy scheme: if they send Creel up into the hills to be caught by a nearby dragon, she can be rescued and married by a rich nobleman and share her new fortunes with her family. The idea is probably unique for good reason (no character in their right mind ought to suggest such a thing!) but the entertainingly awkward situation it creates is a great start to the story.
3. An intelligent bratty princess
How often is the evil antagonist the same character as the annoyingly spiteful little princess? Not only does the future queen-to-be have a whiny, irrational side, she also has a side that is smart enough to concoct a great deal of trouble. The extend of her scheming was quite surprising, but that’s all I’ll say for now.
Was Dragon Slippers full of stereotypes? Certainly. Did that make it not worth reading? Absolutely not. Some of those stereotypes are used as types that young readers can identify with, and the unique twists that Jessica Day George brought to the story left me smiling and interested in reading the two sequels.