Arthur demonstrated his claim to the throne but pulling Excalibur from a rock. Others’ paths to a throne (or its equivalent) have been a little more complicated. This week’s Ten looks at how a variety of characters have approached the challenge of winning a place at the top, whether facing curses, usurpers, or strings of bizarre tests.
A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Prince Khemri’s one of ten million princes responsible for keeping the Empire humming. Though his first experiences as an adult prince quickly teach him to moderate his opinion of himself, it turns out that Khemri is indeed a favourite of the Emperor, picked out as a top candidate for the throne. The job of proving himself the best suited of a galaxy full of princes raises questions, though, and leaves Khemri wondering whether the system he’s been raised to benefit from is really so great after all.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella obeys because she has to — a fairy’s “gift” has made her physically incapable of disobeying (at least for very long) since infancy. This has always been inconvenient, but when Ella and Prince Char’s friendship develops into love, Ella has to figure out how to free herself, or lose Char to save the kingdom. Still my favourite of Levine’s novels!
Magnus by Sigmund Brouwer
Originally issued as a series of 6 books (plus two more that take place later and didn’t make it into the compilation — it’s complicated), Magnus follows the efforts of Thomas, a young orphan living in medieval England, to claim his rightful inheritance as lord over Magnus. Unfortunately, everything Thomas thought was true is proving otherwise, and everyone who offers to help him is keeping secrets. Taking back Magnus is going to require boldness, ingenuity, and some pretty risky trust.
Note: Magnus is older, and might be tricky to find. Brouwer is currently working on a new series that revisits the events and characters of the novel from a different perspective, though, called Merlin’s Immortals. I haven’t read them yet, but they look promising!
The Twin Princes by Tedd Arnold
Two (chicken) princes have equal claim on their father’s throne when he dies. One is kind and well loved, while the other is a self-centred troublemaker. When the king is badly injured, he proposes a contest that will decide once and for all who will succeed him. The princes will race back to town. Whoever reaches the gate last will be crowned when the king dies.
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Like Thomas, Caspian was born to rule. Unfortunately, his youth and the loss of his parents leaves Narnia vulnerable, and someone else usurps the throne. When the Pevensie children return, they find a Narnia much darker than the one they left. With their help, and that of a handful of loyal Narnians, Caspian sets forth to retake Narnia and return it to its former glory
False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Sage, along with three other orphans, is recruited to help a “loyal” nobleman to avert war between their own newly-kingless nation and those surrounding it. The plan is to train the boys in courtly manners, local history, and the personal mannerisms of the only heir to the throne — the younger prince, presumed lost at sea years ago. The most convincing impersonator will be passed off as the lost prince found, and rule the kingdom as a puppet for the rest of his life. If anyone finds out, everyone involved will be executed. If given the choice, Sage would rather not be involved, but as the training progresses, he finds himself in the midst of a mess of secrets so tangled that escape is little more than a fantasy.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie’s not looking for a throne, but there is a prize to be had at the end of his tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory. He just needs to make it that far. Unfortunately, Wonka’s factory is just full of tests and tricks bound to trip up the most determined candy lovers.
Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford
A novelisation of the true story of Lady Jane Grey, whose ambitious family managed to place her on the throne as queen of England for a brief nine days. When Jane’s claim was challenged and defeated, Jane herself was imprisoned and then executed.
First Date by Krista McGee
A retelling of the story of Esther, set in the context of a The Bachelor-like reality TV show. Addy is chosen as her state’s representative in a competition to be chosen as the prom date of the President’s son. It’s a great opportunity for the participants to get their talents noticed on national TV, and the President’s son is good looking and genuinely likeable. Addy doesn’t fit in with most of the rest of the girls. She’s better at golf than formal table manners, and her musical talent is limited to the kazoo. But since she’s not really interested in winning, none of that matters. Right?
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
When the princes in Miri’s country are ready to marry, the future princess’s city is determined, and all the eligible girls are gathered for the prince’s selection. It’s a strange thing for Miri’s mountain mining village to be chosen — first because it’s so remote as to be almost unknown, and second because the girls there are nothing like the usual candidates, more used to mining than minuets. But chosen it has been, so the girls are summoned down the mountain to an old castle, where they are trained to behave like princesses and prepared to catch the prince’s eye. Life inside the “princess academy” is difficult enough; when an attack comes from outside, the girls have to draw on their unique heritage to protect themselves.