Princeless, Book Two picks up almost immediately after the events of Book One. I only know this because the first three words of the comic are “3 days later,” since I haven’t been able to track down the first volume of this fun fantasy adventure (luckily for me, Book One is being reprinted and released this month). Also luckily for me, the situation into which the reader is put is not so confusing. We see King Ashe talking to the most powerful knights in the land, each one introduced in turn. He’s hiring them to rescue his daughter Adrienne from a knight who came to the castle and beguiled her protector dragon. Knowing that the book is called Princeless is enough to clue the reader in that this is not exactly what really happened to Adrienne, and the ensuing story soon reveals the truth.
Adrienne is happily on an adventure with her “kidnapper,” Bedelia. She’s off to rescue the rest of her five sisters from their towers, starting with the oldest, Angelica. Along the way (and in keeping with the book’s theme of switching traditional gender roles), they pick up an itinerant poet who is in constant need of rescuing, and have several run-ins with the knights on their trail, allowing Adrienne to test her fighting skills and build her confidence. The troupe finally gets to Angelica and finds that their plan has a hitch – namely, that Angelica is happy being worshipped for her beauty from afar.
All the elements are now in place for a big action set piece, especially the element where Angelica has a magical guardian who runs rampant if she is touched. A side story explores the history of the relationship between King Ashe and the mysterious Black Knight. Adult readers will probably pick up on some clues as to the knight’s identity, but the reveal will be fun nevertheless.
Emily Martin’s art has just enough faux-historic fantastical detail balanced with dynamic and manga-influenced character designs, clothed in a variety of armor, capes, gowns and more. It’s all filled in with bright, jewel-toned coloring by Kelly Lawrence that adds to the comic’s shelf appeal. It is wonderful to see a comic with people of color as the main characters, especially one that should be very attractive to tweens and teens. Adrienne, Bedelia, and the rest of the crew have energy and life crackling through their limbs, and everyone’s face is expressive to the point of hyperbole.
The fluidity of the action and art works wonderfully in a story fueled by a fast-moving plot, filled with humor, fight scenes, and a healthy dose of self-reflection for Adrienne and Angelica alike. While the hook of Princeless is the reversal of gender roles in a fairly standard medieval-style fantasy world, the heart is Adrienne and her family. Through her quest, she is getting to know herself and her sisters better, and I’m willing to bet that her family will get to know themselves better as well.