Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Princess Holy Aura by Ryk E. Spoor (#GenderSwap #MagicalGirl)

As the year comes to a close, I find myself looking back at all the stories I somehow never got to, and feeling horribly guilty about it . . . so this week I am tackling the review pile from the bottom, catching up on my oldest reads, and doing my best to celebrate them as they deserve.

Well now, wasn't this a delight! Princess Holy Aura was one of those books I grabbed on a whim, because the concept sounded cute, but went into with admittedly low expectations as to whether Ryk E. Spoor could deliver. What I got was a book I did not expect, but one that I loved all the more because of it.

Even if you have never read a page of manga in your life, you are familiar with the Magical Girl concept - Sailor Moon and Steven Universe are probably two of the most prominent examples that Western audiences would recognize. With that in mind, I expected a cheesy adventure novel that would parody the genre, but what we get instead is an urban fantasy that actually takes it all fairly seriously.

Before we talk about the story, though we have to talk about Princess Holy Aura, herself, one five teenage Apocalypse Maidens . . . and originally a middle aged man by the name of Stephen Russ! I loved inclusion of gender swap and age regression in what is largely a mainstream urban fantasy novel, and even if I wanted more detail, more self-exploration, I think Spoor did a fantastic job of dealing with such a drastic change. He manages to avoid fetishizing the whole scenario, and instead uses it to gently address some contemporary issues of gender.

As for the story, it pays loving homage to the whole Magical Girl concept, pairing it with some very meta pop culture moments, and then slams all that lighthearted humor up against almost Lovecraftian apocalyptic horror. I took a step back more than once, shocked by how he switched things up on me, but not in a bad way. There were a million ways this could have gone wrong, but I grinned and giggled the whole way through. It is a crazy, frantic story that I am sure must have its flaws, were I to spend the time deconstructing it, but I don't care to that. Instead, Princess Holy Aura is one of those books you enjoy for what it is, walk away with a smile, and keep one eye open for a sequel down the road.

Ryk E. Spoor was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and has lived in South Dakota, Georgia, New York, and Pennsylvania. Severe asthma forced him to spend most of his childhood reading and, by the time he was six, writing. While he began reading fantasy such as Oz and science fiction starting with Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it was his 5th grade teacher that sent him on the course that would make him a science-fiction author, by lending Ryk a battered copy of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Second-Stage Lensmen; this sent him on a reading spree that devoured every science-fiction book he encountered for the next ten years, and instilled in him the conviction that being a science-fiction author was the greatest possible profession anyone could aspire to.


  1. Need to add this to my to be read list!
    Hugs, Z.

  2. Thanks so much for this wonderful review! :) Yeah, a million ways it could have gone wrong and I was afraid of all of them while I tapdanced my way through those landmines!