Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrations by M. Goodwin; Contributors Jung-Ha Kim and Dave Dwonch
Publisher: Action Lab
Release Date: May 23, 2012
In this girl-power comic books series, Princess Adrienne is tired of waiting for rescue. So she befriends the dragon who is guarding her tower, stages her own death, and sets out to save her other sisters from a similar fate. They soon meet up with a plucky half-dwarf girl named Bedelia and are soon running toward and away from danger.
I really wanted to like this series. After all, one of my favorite book series ever (The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce) is about a girl who pretends to be a boy so she can become a knight. We have a plucky, funny heroine along with some fantastic one liners. Huge bonus points for Princess Adrienne and her entire family being black. I would say African-American, but this is a fantasy world so there isn't really an Africa or America. I didn't just read this first graphic novel compilation either, but rather five, although I have no idea if I read them in order since that was one of the most confusing parts for me. Sadly, the premise of the story couldn't withstand the clunky dialogue and didactic nature.
My biggest issue was in the feminism, which I wouldn't mind if I didn't feel like I was being hit over the head with it repeatedly. And just when you think they can't possibly be anymore heavy-handed, the writer squeezes in one more just to make sure that you know, this girl don't need anybody rescuing her. Now, I am not against a princess rescuing herself, in fact that was the best part of the book. The problem was the six pages dedicated to complaining about the skimpiness of women's armor historically. Or the many times that the Princess' father talks about how boys need to be strong and the only use for girls is to be ruled over and rescued. Of course, there are some role reversal moments too where the Prince likes theater and sewing rather than swordfighting, which also felt ridiculous mostly because it was lazy writing. This is just strict role reversal and rather than creating nuanced characters who could like both sword fighting AND theater.
I did wonder if this really was for children too since there were numerous references to things that I don't think kids will get. Like the Xena costume or the Skyrim reference.
The biggest issue with this series though is that it takes forever for anything to happen. In the first book the only Princess saved is Adrienne herself. A few books in and we get to meet two more sisters. They are so busy trying to tear down female-stereotypes that they sometimes forget to keep the plot going.
As I said, I would like to like this series. It has fantasy and girl power and a hammer-wielding half-dwarf, but the story was trying just a little too hard to effective.