Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Graphic Novel Book Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker
Author: Jen Wang
Publication Date: February 13th 2018
Publisher: First Second
Protagonist Gender: Trans/Nonbinary
Sexuality: Straight

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a sweet – adorable, in fact – fairy tale of identity, acceptance, and friendship. It was deeper and more thoughtful than I expected, never heavy-handed, but more a story that preaches by example. What really struck me is that, even from those who disapprove of his behavior, there are no labels attached to Prince Sebastian’s expression. That freedom, that fluidity, was refreshing.

Some days I look at myself in the mirror and think, “That’s me, Prince Sebastian! I wear boy clothes and look like my father.” Other days it doesn’t feel right at all. Those days I feel like I’m actually . . . a princess.

When Sebastian arranges for Frances to become his personal dressmaker, a friendship blossoms between them, one that deepens over time into the first blush of romance. As Lady Crystallia, he gets to discreetly express himself, quickly becoming a glamour icon, while Frances gets to see her designs shared with the world, slowly creating a name for herself as a designer. It’s the perfect arrangement, the perfect friendship – until the promise of Frances’ big break causes Sebastian to worry about his secret being exposed.

What am I supposed to do?? Do you really think if I tell the world I’m Lady Crystallia everyone’s just going to cheer for me? Wow, we’re so excited the new king looks so good in a dress. Let’s celebrate.

That self-doubt leads the story into a dark place, one that tests both Sebastian and Frances, but it also sets up a perfect fairy tale ending that is all about love and acceptance, making this a feel-good story that is well worth a read. Of course, being a graphic novel, it’s visually spectacular, and well worth a look as well. The style fits the mood perfectly, and while the dresses are absolutely stunning – and I loved the way they flow across panels – it’s the smile they put on Lady Crystallia’s face that resonated strongest with me.

Mother, I’m sorry I never told you the truth. But this is who I am. I’m a prince who likes dresses.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 

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