Four stars, read in June 2015.
There’s a lot of silliness in this book, as demonstrated by the Table of Contents (which is what made me decide to bring it home after picking it up). Some of my favorite chapter titles:
2. Prince Charming Defends Some Vegetables
3. Prince Charming Claims He Is Not Afraid of Old Ladies
7. Prince Charming Has No Idea What’s Going On
15. Prince Charming Should Not Be Left Unsupervised
16. Prince Charming Meets a Piece of Wood
17. Prince Charming Still Has No Idea What’s Going On
20. Prince Charming Walks Into a Bar
22. Prince Charming Is a Sneak
25. Prince Charming Really Needs to Figure Out What’s Going On
28. Prince Charming Is Doomed
It’s the story of the four Princes Charming, known publicly only by their association to their respective princesses (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty). There’s a witch, a giant, a dragon, some trolls, some dwarves, and a bandit army—plus countless kidnappings, escapes, pursuits, plots, and rescues—so there’s plenty of adventure to make it interesting. But really, this is a book about the absurdity of stereotypes and learning to embrace yourself the way you are, all done in a very silly way.
Have I mentioned the silliness?
It’s a very fun humor, and the characters are what make it great. Ella is a daring adventurer, and her Prince Charming, Frederic, is a dandy who’s afraid of everything (especially dirt). Rapunzel is a healer, and her Prince Gustav is a meathead who carries a very big chip on his shoulder because he never actually saved her—in fact, she saved him. Briar Rose is absolutely awful, spoiled and petty and cruel. Her prince, Liam, is a true hero, with a whip-smart younger sister, Lila. Snow White is kind of a solitary person who is driven bonkers by her eccentric chatterbox husband, Duncan. Each of the main characters has a story arc involving personal growth—not examined very deeply, sure, because it’s a comedic children’s book with an action-packed plot—but meant to illustrate that you don’t have to fit a specific mold to be a hero.
I can’t tell whether kids would find the Message too heavy-handed, but I think it was funny enough to balance it out. For me it’s the other way around; the message and the excellent re-imagining of our fairy tale princesses, especially Ella, was enough to temper the sometimes-juvenile humor.