Titles: Princess of the Inland Sea
Realm: The Inland Sea
Featured in: Dragon of the Lost Sea by Laurence Yep
While I will always attribute Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as one of the first true novels I ever read, I cannot in good conscience proclaim it as one of my choosing. It was a gift from my mother and one that sits well worn and well read beside me at my desk with a few other choice tomes, one of those being Dragon of the Lost Sea.
It was the first book that I chose to read way back in the first grade where it sat amongst a pile of other books my teacher wanted us to read over winter break. While most were disgruntled by their choices, never mind the assignment itself, I not only snatched my chosen book up but immediately set forth to finding and reading its sequels.
Written by Laurence Yep, Dragon of the Lost Sea’s titular dragon is a princess named Shimmer. Not altogether an original name as most dragons go but I applaud the use of a name that any first grader can pronounce on the first go and one that fits the mythology. For most of Laurence Yep’s works, dragons are a intermixture of Western and Eastern traits, those being Western in form but oftentimes Eastern in personality and ability. Shimmer’s people specifically call the Inland Sea their home and are, predominately, water dragons with no fiery breath or other such nonsense.
Instead, they have the physical strength atypical of any dragon and magic of the Orient. Contrary to Western styles of magic that involve, to paraphrase an often used quote, silly wand waving and incantations, magic in the works of Laurence Yep oftentimes revolves around drawing specific symbols into the air by one’s own finger followed by a hastily uttered incantation. There is almost no limit to what magic is capable of accomplishing but it is limited by way of its caster.
Shimmer is limited in such a way both by her own limited education and the fact that she, essentially, uses her birthright to aid her in her enchantments and spells. This birthright is known simply as the Dream Pearl, a pearl that shimmers in rainbow hues and whose particular magical talent revolves around illusions so realistic they may as well be physical manifestations of the user’s imagination. However, the Dream Pearl is not without its own limitations and will gladly drink from the life force of its wielder if need be. It was how Shimmer’s own mother died young and what led to her exile in the first place after all.
For you see, Shimmer’s elder brother, the rightful king, sought to take the Dream Pearl for himself despite their mother’s wishes that it be given to Shimmer. Not standing for it in the slightest, Shimmer took the Dream Pearl and ran away, only looking back when her home earned a new name of the Lost Sea. For sometime during her banishment, a witch by name of Civet attacked the Inland Sea by taking all of its waters and placing it in a tiny pebble she wore about her neck. Seeing a means of restoring her honor and place amongst her people, Shimmer set herself to finding and capturing the witch to return the waters of her home.
She is aided by an orphan named Thorn who serves as our mortal foil in the story throughout. The two of them eventually grow as close as family, a true sibling bond if ever there was one. I say sibling because despite Shimmer’s own age being somewhere in the several hundreds, she is still something of a child as far as personality goes.
She never ceases to state her pride on being a dragon and what she ought to be doing as any proper dragon should do. In hindsight, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the phrase “Excuse me, princess” from The Legend of Zelda television series originated from a writer having read any of these books, the first one in particular. Don’t get me wrong, Shimmer is a bit rough around the edges, wanting to be on her own rather than be accompanied by those she thinks might stab her in the back later, but her attitude is more amusing to me than irritating.
For goodness sake, she complains about how her disguised human nose isn’t of the appropriate size to a dragon’s!
Overall, if I had to pick between Kazul or Shimmer to be given time on the silver, or televised, screen… I honestly think that I would have to flip a coin a hundred and one times. Both series are undeniably refreshing reads to the atypical fantasy genres, particular in concern to its draconic characters, and both feature female leads the likes of which don’t play to the common stereotype of damsels, or in their respected cases, royalty.