Book Review: Princess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill

The adorable illustrations of Princess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill, will pull in any reader, regardless of age. This fairy tale comic for children showcases characters with a strong sense of individuality, making your own way in the world, and that two princesses can have a happily ever after together.

“I AM NO PRINCE!” When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kindhearted princess PPER-CoverArtSadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress with a dire grudge against Sadie.

Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means–and how they can find it with each other.

Princess Princess Ever After has all the basic components of a Disney princess story – adorable animal companions who are fiercely protective of their princess, adventure aplenty, characters who go against what society expects of them, an oppressive or evil person who thinks they’re more suitable for power, and heartwarming character development. It’s cute. It’s quick. And it has a queer happily ever after as an added bonus!

The story is very much written for young, grade school level, readers. The story is pretty straight forward and follows a pretty typical princess fairy tale story with no complex plot twists or turns, and has relatable characters seen in Princess Amira, Princess Sadie, and Prince Vladric (also known as Butthead in the story; more on that in a minute). The three main characters are developed in a short amount of time with very little text. Amira, for instance, decided to leave the life of a princess behind her to roam the land as a hero to save people in need. She asks for Sadie’s consent to save her before climbing her tower, which I thought was an excellent inclusion in the small amount of written dialogue in the comic. Then there is Sadie, who is kind and believes the absolute best about everyone. She even saves a village from an Ogre by complimenting his dancing skills and offering him alternatives to smashing things by asking people to spar with him.

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Princess Amira, dark skin and hair with buzzed sides stands on the ground in prince’s attire next to her unicorn, Celeste, talking up to Princess Sadie, who of pale skin and blonde hair and is high in a tower leaning out a window looking down. Panel 1, Amira “But I heard you screaming?” Panel 2, Sadie “I wasn’t screaming. I was singing!” Panel 3, Amira “… okay.” Panel 4, Amira “But don’t you want me to bust you out of that tower?” Panel 5, Sadie “Pfft, as if you could. Dozens of princes already failed. What makes you any different?” Panel 6, Amira “Because I am no prince! My name is Princess Amira…” Panel 7, Amira “…And I have a grappling hook.” Sadie “Oh, sweet.”

Overall, it is a cute book meant for kids. There isn’t anything smashingly profound about the comic despite it boasting “2017 Rainbow Book list Top Ten,” “2017 YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens,” and “2017 Amelia Bloomer List” accolades on the back of the book. Yes, the illustrations are cute and the style of illustration is similar to a lot of other media out right now aimed at kids. And yes, it does showcase two princesses having their happily ever after. But beyond that, the story felt pretty bare bones and relied on readers already knowing and understanding the typical progression of a fairy tale princess story.

Now – I’ve looked at this review a few times and have made sure that I’m not being too hypercritical because this book is not meant for someone my age (late twenties) or someone at my reading level. It is meant for kids in the single digits and I think that that is great! And even though I’m about to talk about some things I wish the book had done better, I still think children and parents should read this book together and would love to see the book in the children’s section in libraries.

So, keeping the age range of the intended reader in mind, there are two things that I wish this comic had done a little better, beyond having more substance in the story in general:

Princess Sadie was put into a tower by her evil sister, Claire. Claire’s reasoning is that she doesn’t want to share the throne with her sister and wants all the power of being queen to herself. Underdeveloped villain aside, the thing that most noticeably bothered me was that Claire continuously calls Saide stupid, fat, and a crybaby. The story does a great job showing that this emotional abuse from her sister has led Sadie to believe that she is all of those things, despite them not being wholly true:

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A confrontation between Claire and Sadie. Panel 1, Claire “What hope do you have, Sadie? We both know you’re a fat, silly crybaby.” Panel 2, Sadie “That may be true…” Panel 3 Sadie “But I’ll never let you make me feel like it’s a bad thing ever again!!”

I absolutely love that Sadie is able to confront her abuser and revoke the power that Claire had over her in this short scene. Sadie’s character arc is one that I appreciate and is done fairly well without much dialogue. What bothers me, is that Sadie is supposed to be “not-thin.” In some panels, the way her dress is drawn makes me believe that that was the true intention, but in other panels, she doesn’t appear to be larger at all and appears to be a similar, slim size like Amira. I would have loved to see Sadie’s illustration depict her as a larger girl. Girls come in all shapes and sizes and I think that that is something kids should see, especially in the princesses that they read about or watch on screen. And Sadie standing up for herself would have still been appropriate because it shows the young reader that even if what someone is saying may be perceived as true, it can still hurt your feelings and that it isn’t alright to actively try and hurt others feelings.

The treatment of Prince Vladric was another thing that rubbed me the wrong way in this story. Ultimately, the story isn’t about him, it’s about Sadie and Amira. However, the way that Amira and Sadie treat him doesn’t fit the tone of their characters. Sadie is sweet and kind to everyone she meets and Amira, although strong headed, wants to be a hero and be a person people turn to for help. When they first meet Vladric, Amira offers to save him from a tree and he embarrassingly declines because he doesn’t want to be saved by princesses. Rightfully, Amira gets frustrated with him and says “Fine, Prince Butthead here can rescue himself” and starts to leave him there but Sadie convinces her that she should still help him. This is a good moment for Amira because it further develops her arc of wanting to be a hero and shows how Sadie helps her realize that sometimes people deserve saving even when they’re mean.

The issue I take from Vladric’s character treatment is that he then joins the princesses on their journey, eventually becoming a member of Sadie’s court (I assume as the illustrations and dialogue leave it pretty vague as to what his role is at the end of the book and the epilogue) and the girls continue to call him Butthead throughout the story. You only see his name when he originally introduces himself shortly after being rescued. Seeing this type of name-calling juxtaposed in the same story where Sadie is overcoming her evil sister who bullies her about her intelligence, emotions, and weight just didn’t fit the overall tone of the story or the character of either girl. It would have been different had Vladric made a statement about liking the nickname, but he doesn’t.

Despite the tone of the story not hitting home for me, I very much enjoyed this quick read. Princess Princess Ever After is extremely cute and creates a lot of talking points for parents to discuss with their kids after they read it. If I had read this as a little girl, it would have helped me understand that I didn’t have to play the prince on the playground, that I could have played as a princess and still have saved the day and the other girls – and Amira would have been my ultimate style goals.

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Rating: 3rainbows
3 out of 5 Rainbows

Recommended Reader: Young readers to read with their parents. I think this book would be a great tool for parents to facilitate conversations about bullying, same-sex relationships, being confident in yourself, and not letting society tell you how you have to be.

You can find more from Katie O’Neill on Twitter and her website.

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