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Harriet the Invincible  (Hamster Princess, volume 1)

By Ursula Vernon 

16 May, 2024

Miscellaneous Reviews


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2015’s Harriet the Invincible is the first volume in Ursula Vernon’s Hamster Princess secondary-universe fantasy middle-grade series.

Harriet is a hamster who is also a princess. Her parents, in particular her mother, have Expectations regarding proper behavior for Harriet, Expectations that are at odds with Harriet’s preferences.

When Harriet is ten, Harriet’s parents reveal delightful news: Harriet is cursed and most certainly doomed.

As so many royal families have before them, the king and queen failed to invite the wicked fairy Nightshade to Harriet’s christening1, reasoning that wicked fairies make poor guests. Uninvited fairies are even worse guests. Nightshade appeared in an angry poof! and cursed the baby.

When Harriet turns twelve, she will prick her finger on a hamster wheel. She will fall into a deep sleep. While the good fairies at the christening were able to mute the curses somewhat — among other things, they added a means by which Harriet could be awoken — they could not remove the curse. Nothing can stop Harriet’s appointment with the wheel of doom.

Harriet is delighted. Her curse is still two years from realization. Since the curse is inevitable, it follows that nothing can harm Harriet until her twelfth birthday. She is, in a word, invincible.

Harriet’s parents would prefer for Harriet to participate in the search for an appropriate prince to wake her from her sleep. The most suitable prince being a drip, Harriet mounts her riding quail Mumfrey and sets out to vanquish the kingdom’s ample supply of monsters.

Two years of terrorizing monsters later, Harriet returns to her castle for her appointment with doom. Wicked fairy Nightshade is there to make sure the curse goes off according to plan. Nightshade’s scheme did not take into account that her victim might be a veteran adventurer by the time the curse was triggered. The astonished wicked fairy’s plan goes very much off the rails.

Alas, no happy ending for Harriet. Her bold stratagem had dire consequences. The only person who can fix them is Harriet herself.


Ursula Vernon2 is the same person as T. Kingfisher. Which name is used depends on the target market for the book in hand. I have no idea how I will handle this on my site.

I did notice a small flaw in Harriet’s logic, which is that while she has to be sufficiently alive and conscious to fall into a deep sleep on her twelfth birthday, there’s no reason the curse should keep her from being badly injured just short of death, or falling into a vegetative state. Luckily for Harriet, her conviction that she is invulnerable until age twelve is correct.

Harriet prudently elected to be written by written by Vernon, not Vernon’s T. Kingfisher persona. Ursula Vernon is considerably more amiable than Kingfisher, whose books are filled with Things even the pluckiest hamster would be hard-pressed to vanquish. Harriet’s world has its monsters, but they can be subdued by a sufficiently determined, sufficiently violent, sufficiently cunning sub-tweens.

The narrative is charming, and the fairy-tale logic amuses. The narrative is further improved by Vernon’s skillfully executed, often snarky illustrations. Parents whose children enjoy this novel will be delighted to know there is an abundance of sequels.

Harriet the Invincible is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).

1: Presumably that means this is a Christian universe. Is this like Narnia, where each universe gets its own boutique messiah? That would be for the best. The hamsters would be alarmed if a human messiah suddenly appeared and humans probably would not have reacted well to a billion-ton cosmic-space-squid Jesus.

2: Whose Digger I still have not read.