Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Harriet the Invincible

Once upon a time, in a distant land, there was a beautiful princess named Harriet Hamsterbone, who, as her name indicated, was a hamster.

She was brave and intelligent and excelled in traditional hamster princess skills, like checkers and fractions. She was not very good at trailing around the palace looking ethereal and sighing a lot, which were also traditional princess skills, but her parents hired deportment teachers to try and make up for it.

Her deportment teacher tried to make her walk around with a book on her head to improve her posture. He was later found in the library with a book stuffed in his mouth, and Harriet was grounded for a month.

Harriet is a hamster princess with an unfortunate fate hanging over her. When she was a baby, a wicked fairy cursed her: at the age of twelve, she will prick herself on a hamster wheel and fall into a deep sleep until a prince’s kiss can wake her. When Harriet learns about this, though, she spots a bright side: for the curse to come true, she has to be alive. And there’s powerful magic in curses. Until the age of twelve, Harriet realises, she is effectively invincible.

This is a Sleeping Beauty retelling with a difference.

Harriet is not the most typical princess, although she has a constant battle with her parents over the definition of “princessly” behaviour. By Harriet’s logic, if she does it, then it’s the sort of thing a princess does… and the things Harriet wishes to do include cliff diving, jousting, and dragon slaying. Her long-suffering mother, sadly, doesn’t find logic all that persuasive when it’s opposed to the weight of tradition. But once Harriet points out her invincibility, there’s not much left to stop her from pursuing her adrenaline-fuelled dreams, and she rides off on her quail to do exactly that. So by the time her twelfth birthday eventually rolls around, Harriet has prior experience of being awesome, and she’s not going down without a fight.

This book is adorable, and also genuinely funny, but I think the real genius of it is in the marketing. Harriet the Invincible is firmly targeted at the kind of stereotypical, princess-obsessed, girly-girl that I definitely never was. The cover is pink and lilac and sparkly (the hardback has actual glitter). The main character is a cute, cuddly hamster. And yet. At the heart of this pink-and-girly book is a sword-wielding, maths-loving princess who takes on the world and its monsters, defends her right to independence, and eloquently lays out all the reasons why she’s just fine exactly as she is.

Harriet the Invincible is available from Amazon.

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