Perhaps you remember Princess Fiona in the “Shrek” films, who had kung fu skills to rival Bruce Lee. Or Cinderella in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” who helped slay the giantess — in part by directing her birds to distract her. In the recent live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle is an inventor and a proponent of female literacy (though she still falls in love with her kidnapper, so it continues to register high on the creepiness scale).
The newest entry into the empowered-princess genre is “Frogkisser!,” by Garth Nix, who previously wrote the Old Kingdom series. “Frogkisser!” centers on a young princess named Anya who has to save the kingdom from a wicked sorcerer. To do so, she has to talk with dogs, ride an itchy magic carpet, rescue her sister’s fiancé and kiss a pondful of frogs.
Midway through the book, as Anya sets off to confront a coven of witches, one character asks her, “What kind of princess are you?” “Not the kind that needs rescuing,” Anya says firmly. The revisionism doesn’t end there. Three of Snow White’s seven dwarves are female. And the prince she’s trying to rescue? Well, he’s handsome but not “all that clever.”
The audiobook is narrated by the actress and novelist Marisa Calin, who does a fantastic job. She has a British accent, which somehow makes all fairy tales 26 percent better. Her upbeat tone is well-suited to the book’s jaunty style and amusing quests — such as the search for a magic lip balm needed for proper amphibian kissing.
My only complaint is that the book dragged a bit in the middle. I got lost trying to keep track of all the adventures and characters: “Now which is the half-otter, and which is the newt?” I’d ask my kids as we listened in the car. In my experience, keeping multiple characters straight is one of the few drawbacks of audiobooks in general.
“Frogkisser!” comes several years after the actor Chris…