I’ve always liked fairytales; I was never quite gaga over them, but I’ve generally welcomed all the varieties and retellings in whichever format they came in. However, not since The Princess Bride have I been so taken by one. Princeless, as the Book One subtitle suggests, is about a princess who saves herself. And there’s so much more going on than kicking the helpless princess stereotype to the curb.
Princess Adrienne is one of nine siblings including eight princesses and her twin, Prince Devin. They, along with their mother and father, live in their father’s fairytale kingdom and live by fairytale rules. It has all the things you’d expect, you know, princes, princess, towers, dragons, tax collectors, blacksmiths, strict gender roles, and the like. Unlike her mother, Adrienne isn’t quite so comfortable with the things you’d expect and she’s been questioning them since she was knee-high to a grapefruit. The typical story of the prince slaying the dragon and rescuing the fair maiden doesn’t sit right with her for all of the plot holes and lapses in logic. Only thing is, this isn’t just a typical story, this, for the princesses in this world, is what they have to look forward to from their 16th birthday on. Well, Adrienne is having none of that and she wastes no time in telling her mother so. Unfortunately for her, the royal ‘rent’s loyalties lie with the status quo, so in the tower she goes.
From the cover you can see that this is not your typical fairytale. For starters, Adrienne is a black (as in someone who could have descended from a people in Sub-Saharan Africa) princess in a knight’s armor. And rather than galavanting around pretending to be a guy, she just allows the assumption to work for her benefit. Also, she isn’t generic black. And by that I mean that she isn’t just a character whose skin color happens to be brown; there is something that occurs within the first few pages that is definitely more common to little black girls than those of any other ethnicity. And honestly, that’s it. Those two panels are enough to establish that she is more than just a character of a darker hue than your garden variety princess.
What else? Well, there’re the gender stereotypes that get stomped into the dirt every step of the way. It’s often that the girl that breaks out of the “girl mold” hangs up her apron, cuts her hair, says she doesn’t need a man, and then spends a great deal of time trying to prove that her actions and ideas are valid. While Adrienne does trade in her dress for patchwork armor and saves herself in lieu of the random prince, she doesn’t cut her hair and she doesn’t spend the rest of the time trying to prove anything, she just does it. Whatever it is that she needs to do to achieve her goal, she gets right on. Rather than slaying the dragon, she makes it her ally. Proof is the byproduct of her action.
One of the things I love about Princeless is that Adrienne is already awesome, but she’s not perfect out of the box. For example, when she flies off on her dragon, Sparky, she actually falls off because she didn’t think to attach a saddle. Another thing is, later, when she’s trying to upgrade her armor, she questions the practicality of the choices she’s presented by the daughter of the blacksmith who doesn’t get why Adrienne is concerned. And then, in a twist of circumstance, she actually ends up wearing one of the costumes and finds that it isn’t completely useless, though still not preferred.
There are a bunch of other things that had me smiling and laughing and thinking and ready for more (like the mix of modern and early modern English), but I think it would be best if you experienced Princeless for yourself.
Bonus!: Princeless is one of comixology’s DRM-Free Backup titles!