This broad adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper is an appealing hybrid of dark fantasy and tongue-in-cheek humor that launches itself into immediate non-stop action, from the game of Skullball played by ordinary folk to the intrigues of the palace and a missing prince. Our reluctant hero, Seifer Tombchewer, is grand at playing Skullball, but definitely lacks experience as being a prince, fighting wars, and dealing the idea of a fiancée. The actualization of the fiancée, Lady Asphyxia, takes place on the last page, carrying the flying momentum over to the next installment.
Seifer’s kidnapping by those in power in the kingdom of Pandemonium is the result of him being the spitting image of the missing prince, although consisting of a much finer sense of morality than the prince. Much of the action is the result of the prince’s abductors trying to unseat the impostor without tipping their own hand.
Along with the action and deft character sketches, Wooding and Diaz have a great deal of fun with the dialogue and the illustrations. There is much to laugh about while Seifer fights for his life, his kingdom, and his new-found friends. Between Seifer’s diary entries and his internal monologues, the reader begins to understand the princely impersonator. He has very little time, however, to mediate, as the threats against him and the country are fast and furious. Prince Talon, as he is known, has several solid allies with the kidnapped prince’s sisters and a lady of the court, aiding him in his deception and endeavors. Seifer is realistic and human — although he does have wings — and is easy to identify with as the reluctant hero.
The artwork is dynamic with splashes of color in the panels, several speech balloons, and the cat (we cannot forget the cat). Most of the kingdom, however, is in darkness, so Diaz is adept at utilizing a wide range of gray to black tones for the backgrounds. Her illustrations are reminiscent of anime in the characterization, camera shots, and the rapid combat sequences. This is a complex fantasy world that is fully actualized through the illustrations which are joyfully populated with monsters and monstrous beings, as well as our attractive heroes. A fun romp indeed for tween readers.
by Chris Wooding
Art by Cassandra Diaz
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12