Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker is an intriguing twist on the typical fairy tale story. Here, the prince and heir to the throne Sebastian is being pushed by his parents to find a bride and begin settling down for his own time to reign, but he's harboring a secret. He likes to wear dresses, a fact that only a trusted servant knows. At the onset of this book, he discovers the work of a brilliant, edgy dressmaker named Frances, and he hires her to be his secret seamstress.

Frances makes him all kinds of fantastic and glamorous gowns, and he begins to wear them out disguised as the very showy and dramatic Lady Crystallia. He gathers much attention in this venture and becomes a notorious and trend-setting figure. Of course, all of these secrets have a shelf-life, and much of this book deals with the effects and fallout that comes with being secretive and what happens when that facade begins to crumble.
The high points of this book for me are the artwork and the characters. The art is characterized by flowing lines, vibrant colors, emotive expressions, and fun energy. Wang seems to take many cues from animation in her work, and it certainly pops off the page. Sebastian and Frances are vivid and complex, and getting to spend time with them in the pages of this book is wonderful. Their relationship is not simply a working relationship, nor is it a romance really but more like a friendship that develops interesting features. The ending of the book is also not a pat one, which I feel is appropriate.

I have read a few other books by this book's creator Jen Wang, including her debut Koko Be Good and In Real Life. I think her work is excellent, and I am eager to see whatever project she undertakes next. She talks about her work on The Prince and the Dressmaker in this interview.

The reviews I have read about this book have been largely glowing. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review that concluded, "It’s all but certain to deliver grins, gasps, and some happy tears." Elizabeth Bush wrote, "Readers new, or resistant, to graphic novels will also discover magic here in Wang’s visual storytelling." Princess Weekes gushed that it "is without a doubt one of my favorite things I’ve read so far this year and I’m so excited for everyone to enjoy it." The reviewer at Kirkus Reviews was more reserved, finding much to admire but also feeling that "Sebastian meets acceptance far too easily, particularly for such a public figure in such a conservative age."

The Prince and the Dressmaker was published by First Second, and they offer a review and more here.

A preview copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

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