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The Courageous Princess. By Rod Espinosa. San Antonio, TX: Antarctic Press, 2000. 1v. (unpaged). $11.95. Publisher address: 7272 Wurzbach Suite 204, San Antonio, TX 78240.


Kids, adults, teens

In the tiny kingdom of New Tinsley, kindly King Jeryk and Queen Helena have their prayers answered when Helena gives birth to a baby girl. They name her Mabelrose, and the princess grows up curious, friendly, devout, freckled, and tomboyish. One day she is invited to her first ball. Her excited parents outfit her in the finest New Tinsley has to offer, and she sets off to the great city of Warwick with her maids (and friends) Bess and Anita. However, Mabelrose is very much out of her element in the snobbish atmosphere; being plain, she's snubbed by Prince Jeremiah, and her clothes and behavior are targets for a whole roomful of scornful princesses. However, she inadvertently gets a bit of her own back when she befriends young Prince Edward and promises to smuggle his illicit frog out of the castle for him. The frog has other ideas....

Back home, Mabelrose sits in the garden, wondering how she can get a prince to pay attention to her. Suddenly the wind comes up, storm clouds appear, and she falls asleep and is carried off by a sinister figure.

As Jeryk grimly sets off in search of his daughter, Mabelrose awakens in a beautiful room in a huge castle. Then, invisible beings lead her to a giant room filled with treasure and presided over by an immense dragon, Shalathrumnostrium. "Oh please, don't eat me! I won't taste good!" Mabelrose cries. But the dragon explains that he has no intention of eating her; he collects princesses, largely in hopes of getting a goodly ransom from their kingdoms. However, he knows Mabelrose is from a poor land, and he sneers that no one will rescue her because she's neither pretty nor rich enough. "You will be mine for a long time."

Mabelrose decides that if no one is going to rescue her, she's going to rescue herself. She tricks the greedy dragon into flying away, but his invisible servants--and his visible ones--hinder and chase her as she tries to leave. However, she finds shelter in the treasure room, into which the various servants won't come. In the room she takes various articles lying around: boots, a cape, a rope, a magic ring that doesn't seem to do anything, and a few other items. But escaping the dragon's lair will take all her skill and courage... as well as the help of a talking porcupine, Spiky, whom she befriends.

This is a sweet little story with a nice message. Mabelrose is appealing and spunky, and the dragon is an interesting villain, though it's not clear why he wants to keep her around when she's obviously not going to result in additions to his treasure horde. As the story is just getting started in this book, one assumes we will learn more about his motives later. Mabelrose's parents are pleasant people who don't get enough screen time in this book, but I think they'll be more prominent in the next book--I've seen sample panels. I also hope we'll be seeing more of Bess and Anita, the two princes, and some of the snobby princesses.

The dialogue is very good for the most part, though there's one small section just after the ball in which the characters use almost no contractions, which makes them sound stiff and unnatural. Luckily, the dialogue returns to normal after that.

The full-color art shows a distinct Japanese influence, especially in the faces and the use of "quiet" interim panels, and is quite cinematic in spots, with some truly glorious backgrounds. ("Wow, look at that," said one of my friends when I showed her a scene from the ball.) I believe much of the art was computer-generated.

A nice use of mirrors to foreshadow the dragon's first appearance The dragon's invisible servants forcibly dress Mabelrose

Copyright 2000, Rod Espinosa

According to Espinosa, the story was originally published online in 1998; he reworked it as a graphic novel. We should be glad that he did. This is a charming book that many readers will find attractive and entertaining. Highly recommended for kids. Adults and teens into fairy tales and variations thereof will also enjoy it.

Read the review of The Courageous Princess: The Quest for Home

Rod asks that you purchase the book through Mile High Comics!

Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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