Goodreads: Save Yourself
Series: Princeless #1
Sixteen-year-old Adrienne is tired of sitting in a tower and waiting for a prince to rescue her. So, aided by her guard dragon Sparky, Adrienne escapes and sets off on a quest to rescue her sisters from their various prisons. Unfortunately, the king thinks Adrienne dead and that the mysterious short knight with a dragon is the culprit. Now Adrienne is being chased across the land by the king’s guards and she can’t even find a a decent suit of armor to wear.
Though fractured fairy tales and satirical takes on the old tropes have increased in number over the years, the old tropes still hold power, making the Princeless series a welcome addition to the titles already pointing out the sexism and the lack of diversity that plagues many of our stories. Though initially I feared this series might address these topics with too heavy a hand, by the end of the first chapter I was grinning with delight and rooting for the protagonist to go forth and bring gender equality to the land. Sometimes the story tackles issues directly, maybe with the protagonist Adrienne schooling a character on what it means to be “fair”, and sometimes the commentary is more subtle, such as the depiction of Adrienne’s brother pursuing the humanities instead of warfare and gaining only derision–an acknowledgment of the ways in which gender roles can trap men as well as women. Either way, Save Yourself always balances its humor with thoughtfulness, while still presenting a gripping story full of action and adventure.
Save Yourself immediately gets down to business, opening with a telling of a traditional fairy tale, the kind where the blond and blue-eyed princess gets rescued by a handsome prince and lives happily ever after. Young Princess Adrienne, dark-skinned and spirited, points out all the plot holes in the story and forbids her mother from ever locking her up in an attempt to arrange a marriage. The message, I thought at first, could have been more subtle. But as I continued to read, I realized that this attitude of taking on tropes straight-on is one of the book’s strengths. In many ways, the story comes very close to breaking the fourth wall. In doing so, it invites readers into the story and into the joke. And thus into the conversation.
This story, in fact, gets so many things right that I could make an entire review just of bullet points and I think that would be enough to entice readers. Female friendship. (Or more?) Sisters. An extended joke on what constitutes “armor” for women. A protagonist of color. An acknowledgement of the struggles women of color face when styling their hair. A nod toward the possibility of internalized sexism. All happening while a princess convinces her guard dragon that they need to escape together to take on the system that has used them for its own profit. Add in a probably corrupt government and some fighting and chasing and you have what a story that seems as if it ought to be wildly popular. Because what’s not to love about a princess saving herself?