Princess Magnolia is entertaining nosy Duchess Wigtower with hot chocolate and scones when an alarm sounds. Magnolia plays innocent, blaming noisy birds, but really she knows it signifies a monster has entered the realms of her kingdom, and that her alter ego the Princess in Black is needed sharpish to deal with the unwanted visitor. When she finally gets away, she can count on her faithful noble steed Blacky (who usually disguises as a unicorn) to help her along the way, and unbeknownst to her, the help of Duff the Goat Boy too.
The first thing one notices when discovering The Princess in Black is quite how subversive it is. The format and design of the book is very similar to the traditional American series Little Golden Books, and subsequently the reader almost expects a ‘traditional’ princess story.
But The Princess in Black is anything but; it is full of fun, humour and adventure in the best tradition of other masked vigilantes such as Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel, with a little dose of irony which won’t be lost on adult readers.
A wonderfully stereotype-defying tale, it is great fun to see Magnolia go from cliché pink and fluffy princess to black-clad heroine. Interestingly though Magnolia is not the only one breaking the mould of her social standing. Duff the Goat Boy is also a prisoner of others’ expectations, revealing that princesses are not the only ones suffering from unfair stereotypes. The story ends on Duff making a life-changing decision and opening the way for more installments of the series.
The cartoony illustrations are dotted throughout and help create a really sense of action in the story.
The Princess in Black makes a great read-aloud but with short sentences and chapters which allow newly independent readers to take it at their own pace, this is first and foremost a really super first chapter book.
source: review copy from publisher