- Grade Level: 4 - 6
- Series: Princeless (Book 1)
- Paperback: 118 pages
- Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Inc (May 2, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1450798942
- ISBN-13: 978-1450798945
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 115 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,381,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Princeless Book 1: Save Yourself Paperback – May 2, 2012
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Princess Adrienne finds herself locked in a tower by her parents, who intend to test potential suitors by having them kill the guardian dragon and scale the tower to rescue her. Adrienne discovers a sword in her tower and recruits the dragon, Sparky, over to her side. They set off to free Adrienne's sisters, all trapped in their own towers, and along the way befriend the resourceful but strange blacksmith, Bedelia.
Princeless stands out for many reasons: a female poc as the main character, an inversion of typical fairy tale and comic cliches... None of this would matter if the story wasn't any good. Fortunately, writer Jeremy Whitley really excels at creating interesting characters and snappy, funny dialogue. Adult fans will love Adrienne and Bedelia debating the usefulness of chainmail bikini armor (complete with examples from comic and TV history), kids will enjoy an action heroine who takes her destiny into her own hands, has her share of knocks along the way, but never gives up. M Goodwin's art is masterful too, with wonderful use of color and priceless expressions that perfectly compliment the dialogue. The overall feel of the book is a little reminiscent of the Asterix volumes I read when I was young: colorful, funny, silly and with some entertaining fights along the way.
With such a dearth of female leads who aren't primarily eye-candy in the comics industry right now, Princeless really stands out as a must-have series for young girls who are getting into comics. That's not to say that it isn't also a great read for boys, or anyone really: it succeeds in telling a fun story with great characters while also going some way towards filling a very conspicuous gap in the market.
Princeless, on the other hand, challenges a lot of this recurrent trend and revolves almost entirely around empowering, not just female character who would normally be defaulted with being weak and subservient, with pipe cleaner arms; but also respectfully integrates the presence of both female and male characters that fall outside of what is normally expected of their gender roles.
While there are certainly elements in the story and characters specifically designed to challenge these tropes, it is clear that none of the characters present are one way or another because of their genders. The lead character, Princess Adrienne, for example, is not a gimmick defined by her breaking all of the "frail princess" tropes. Instead, she is a fully realized protagonist that organically carries the plot forward.
The books are very effective in addressing all the problems inherent with what can only be called misogynistic tropes, without actually turning its story into a gender war by focusing a lot more on each character as an individual who lives under their own circumstances and are influenced by the world and the culture around them and how each of them deals with it.
Even King Ash, who quickly sets himself up as the primary antagonist, at least for now, seems to operate the way he does thanks to the culture he was brought up in. But even he makes no gestures of disgust when he encounters that a girl outside of his culture is slated to lead her clan without any required male entity in the future.
For a series that deals with such harsh topics as our Western World's internalized mysoginism and subtle quips that address clashing political ideals and manipulation, it is extremely friendly for audiences of all ages. All of the more sensitive stuff, if it can even be called that, is woven into the fabric of the story so subtly and clearly that, even the younger audience would get the notion of what it is trying to say, and an older audience would be able to get much more out of it without it coming off as "too adult" for the little ones.
The books also feature a spectacularly racially diverse cast of characters that are strangely devoid of other fantasy stories where there are humans, elves, dwarves and orcs, but a lot of authors tend to draw the line at the presence of POC. Adrienne herself is black, and she is no weaker for it. In book 2 we find that her sister is known as the most beautiful lady in the land. I cannot recall the last time this was done for anyone who wasn't a "white, blonde, blue-eyed princess." Needless to say, this is refreshing from all angles.
The writing itself can be a little stilted, and at times it feels a bit on the amateur side. For example, there are a few pages throughout the first two books where the word balloon layouts was a bit confusing and I couldn't tell either who was speaking first, or who was speaking at all. But that didn't really bring anything down for me. As an aspiring comic artist myself, I'm actually extremely encouraged to find that even people who are able to put together such wonderful piece of literature and art is still human, and that we all can do something without the pressure of being perfect. We can all be better, not just in skill, but as people.
Jeremy Whitley, the author, is a role model. In a world where destructive gender biases are so ingrained in our culture that so many people (especially men) fail to realize how wrong it actually is, we really need more people to present us with strong examples of how to become better than ourselves.
I only discovered Princeless recently when I was doing research for my Animation MFA thesis, which centers around female character design, specifically. I got both books a couple of days ago in the mail and I'm absolutely in love with the series. I've shared it with my two friends and girlfriend, all of which ended up loving it every bit as much as I, and I will be citing this in my thesis as a prime example on how to do it right.
I really cannot wait to give this to my young niece who lives abroad. I'm fairly sure she's about to reach that age where adults begin to drive her toward specific gender expectations and I would love for her to see this and discover that she doesn't have to be bound by that.
As far as the shipping; It went well. Unfortunately, there's a page in my Book 1 that came partially torn up, so I'll have to purchase a new copy in the future.
I definitely hope to see more Princeless and stories like it in years to come, and not just from Whitley, but from other men and women in the creative field that have the chance to make a difference.
Anyway, I read about Princeless, saw that the author has multiple books out and that the theme wasn't the typical princess saved by the prince and I just had to buy it.
I've got a 9-year-old girl who needs to be reminded that being brave and saving herself is a far better option than kissing frogs until you find Mr. Right. I showed her the book when it came in and she disappeared into her room.
The next morning she was finishing the book and asking for the next in the series. I call that a win.