Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill was an impulse read. I was at the library for toddler storytime, and it's gorgeous cover stood out on a display of middle grade fantasy. Middle grade fantasy can be a fun refreshing change from long and/or heavy adult fantasy, plus I'm on the lookout these days for good fantasy to recommend to my niece. I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed Iron Hearted Violet. Here's the Goodreads synopsis (which for once says pretty much exactly what I wanted to):
Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.The book was just as charming as it sounds. The book is narrated by the castle storyteller, which gives it a nice intimate, yet detached point of view. It sounds like a fairy tale. There's clearly a message to the story -- a fantastic message, one of confidence, loyalty, truth, and forging your own path. But the message isn't heavy handed or obnoxious.
Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a classic-feeling fairy tale with a bit of a twist (or you know a kid who is), this is a solid choice.