One of my coworkers and I ended up talking about his daughters, their fondness of princesses, and his efforts to find princess role models who are the kind of girls and ladies he wants his kids to be.
Below is an incomplete list of princesses (and their books). These are specifically princesses who are the (only or main) protagonist of their books.
Books: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia C. Wrede
Cimorene isn’t especially good at being a princess, but she is good at languages, sword fighting, cooking, and light magic. She runs off to become a dragon’s princess and adventures ensue.
Book: The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley
Harry isn’t a princess, but she is a noble. Following the death of her father, she joins a group of semi-nomadic warriors and becomes a hero.
Princess Aerin of Damar
Book: The Hero and the C rown, Robin McKinley
Aerin becomes the hero her people need, not the one they deserve. She’s like a ginger Batman, except without a lot of the awful. Actually, she’s nothing like Batman. She is a hero and a princess and sacrifices everything she has again and again for her kingdom and people.
Book: Princess Ben, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
I don’t actually know how good I would say Princess Ben is. I read this book a few years ago, and liked it well enough. I read it on a plane. I feel like I’d read this story before. Princess Ben is a pretty classic “bad at being a princess” princess who steps up to take control of the situation. This story is very much a romance at its heart.
Book: Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
Princess Pippilotta is the strongest girl (and princess) in the world.
Book: Rose (and Bone), Jeff Smith
Grandma Ben from Bone used to be Princess Rose and then Queen Rose. That lady is so cool. If you haven’t read Bone, you should also check out then. So formative for me.