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5 Books like Ella Enchanted: The Princess Challenge!

Jane Howarth itcherThe heroines of books like ‘Ella Enchanted’ (1997), ‘The Two Princesses of Bramarre’ (2011) and ‘Princess of the Midnight Ball’ (2009) are on a mission. Sit back and wait for help? Not likely! They’ve got curses to break and dragons to save.  ~ Jane Howarth

It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper…

I love the fact that Gail Carson Levine took a little bit of fairy tale inspiration, created an entirely new princess… then gave her a tough challenge to take on!

Meanwhile, other authors have been busy creating their own royalty and reshaping princesses we thought we knew, setting them new tasks and giving them personalities that are every bit as original. Ready to follow more princesses as they face the world?


Books SImilar to ‘Ella Enchanted’…

‘The Two Princesses of Bramarre’ (Gail Carson Levine, 2011)

Image Source: cloudfront

She’d rush to me, cradling the Cure in both hands. Sometimes it was an elixir in a golden chalice. Sometimes it was the feather of a gryphon…

Two princesses’ mother dies of the fearsome Grey Death. After a childhood of playing at cures and quests, one of the sisters is struck by the same deadly illness, and the other sets out to find the prophesied cure for real.

Don’t you think Gail Carson Levine strikes just the right note in her writing? For me, the dialogue’s never too faux-historical – and it always feels modern without being too contemporary.

Similarity Match: 95%
Another of Levine’s books similar to ‘Ella Enchanted’, following two princesses who are every bit as lovable and brave. The biggest difference? A fresh (and life-threatening) challenge.

‘Princess of the Midnight Ball’ (Jessica Day George, 2009)

Image Source: cloudfront

Our bargain is made…

Remember ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’? Even if you’ve read it a hundred times, try Jessica Day George’s version for an ‘Ella’-style fantasy wonderland of curses, brave soldiers and princesses on a mission (and hints at the story’s heritage with little Germanic touches).

As a result of their mother’s deal, Princess Rose and her eleven younger sisters are doomed to spend every night dancing in an underground kingdom. They’re forbidden from speaking of it, and any prince who tries to rescue them is doomed to meet a sticky end.

It’s the first in the Westfalin Princesses trilogy, followed by ‘Princess of Glass’ (2010) and ‘Princess of the Silver Woods’ (2012), and personally, I love those enchanting titles as much as anything…

Similarity Match: 85%
Curses you can’t talk about, double-edged bargains, a heroine on a quest in a fairy tale kingdom… it’s a great alternative! This time, we don’t just follow the princess’s side of the story.

‘The Runaway Princess’ (Kate Coombs, 2006)

Image Source: amazon

“I quit!” Meg told him. “Find yourself another princess!”

Meg has gleefully dragged her frothiest dresses through muddy fields and questioned every bit of royal etiquette. And then her parents offered her hand in marriage to any prince who can rid their kingdom of its resident bandits, witch and dragon.

The princess challenges herself to challenge to rescue the pests before they come to any harm, saving herself in the process.

Yep, this story’s a lot of fun. I mean, how many princesses set out to rescue the villains? 

Similarity Match: 80%
‘The Runaway Princess’ is sassier, with a totally left-field challenge, but it comes closer with mythical creatures and unlikely friendships.

‘The Goose Girl’ (Shannon Hale, 2003)

Image Source: tumblr

Some people are born with the first word of a language resting on their tongue, though it may take some time before they can taste it…

Shannon Hale is the author of the ‘Princess Academy’ and ‘Ever after High’ series – but her ‘Books of Bayern’ stories will remind you every inch of classic stories.

Princess Ani is taught the birds’ language as a child. When her father dies, she’s sent to marry the prince of a neighbouring kingdom, where an unexpected turn of events leaves her to fend for herself – falling back on her talent, she becomes a goose girl.

The original Grimm character kind of goes with it, but Ani’s more determined than that…

Similarity Match: 75%
This retelling is sprinkled with classic fairy tale signatures, but like Ella, Ani walks the line between duty and independence on her quest.


If You Like ‘Ella Enchanted’, You Will Like…

Leave your ballgown at home for this one – it’s a big step up from ‘Ella Enchanted’ in the fiery heroine stakes.

‘First Test (Protector of the Small #1)’ (Tamora Pierce, 1999)

Image Source: goodreads

You’ll see. I’m as good as any boy. I’m better…

With fights breaking out and scary beats around, ‘First Test’ is an action-packed ride from YA fantasy queen Tamora Pierce. Instead of following a princess (I know, I’m sorry – I sneaked this one in!) we’re following Kel, a girl who wants to train as a knight.

Though she’s not facing a curse, a backfiring gift or any of that stuff, Kel must overcome the challenges of being the only girl training as a knight. Other than that? It’s like a really tough version of Ella’s finishing school.


If I couldn’t sleep, I could read…

I think Ella could have used these books when she was sitting up in the purple room, reading by lamplight – in fact, Madame Edith’s nightlight would be pretty handy, because you’ll struggle to put them down.

And just because I think you’ll read them from cover to cover so fast, I’ll add a couple more.

‘Just Ella’ (Margaret Peterson Haddix, 1999) is another Cinderella story, this time for slightly older readers, or if you’re not particular about a princess doing all the work? In ‘Once Upon a Marigold’ (Jean Ferris, 2002), Christian falls for Princess Marigold (ah, title solved) and realises that he’s got to do more than win her over – he’ll have to save her from imminent murder.

Know another good book like ‘Ella Enchanted’?

Let us know in the comments!

Hi, I’m Jane, BA (Drama, Film and TV) and MA (Cultural and Creative Industries). When I’m not writing about creative things, I’m designing or planning them. If you’re brave enough to risk an avalanche, look behind the stacks of books and DVDs and you’ll find me balancing a cup of tea, a handful of knitting and a cupcake.
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