Running for her life after the murder of her parents, Princess Lala Lilia finds herself under the protection of the last surviving member of the royal knights, Gideon Thorn. In their escape from her pursuers they ride deep into the Forbidden Forest, coming face-to-face with a centuries-old crimson dragon–the mortal enemy of knights, and interested in the little princess himself.
Little Princess in Fairy Forest was originally released in Japan in 2017, and is now available in English thanks to Cross Infinite Worlds. Written by Tsubaki Tokino and illustrated by Konno Takahashi, this story is self contained to a single volume. Cheris Messier is once again the translator, like in the previous Cross Infinite Worlds title I reviewed, and works hard with the changing perspectives throughout the book.
Going in, I didn’t know what to expect from this title–like most titles from this publisher, there seems to be very little information or opinion available outside of the license announcement–but the gorgeous cover grabbed my attention immediately. The synopsis of a young princess having to escape her uncle’s attempts at capturing her for the throne was intriguingly similar to a fairytale, so I eagerly awaited for my own copy to join my Kindle library.
First of all, when they say little princess, they mean little princess. Lala is only six years old during the opening prologue and chapters, and definitely acts her age. As I had hoped, the story truly is a fairytale with dragons, witches and fairy godmothers–but also includes the twisted, terrifying scenarios of the Brothers Grimm. This book was viscerally horrific to read in parts, which was as surprising as it was riveting. It never dips into being too oppressively dour though, as all three of our main characters keep the story’s momentum going.
Initially I was hesitant when the book opened with Lala’s first-person perspective–afraid that the book would be a vehicle for self-insert more than anything else. This was not the case, however. Speaking on the prose itself, there’s a frequency of switching perspectives–sometimes the reader being in the character’s head, and sometime from the perspective of a narrator. It was a little hard to get into at first, but the sudden shifts work well for the story’s structure and gives the plot and characters more depth of motivation than if it had been written in only one way.
Our main characters consist of the Little Princess herself, a headstrong young girl who adapts well to new situations; Gideon, a middle-aged knight, who cares far more about duty and loyalty than his black sheep status would suggest; and Spike Scale, the 200-year-old dragon who loves knowledge, and is overly protective of the people he cares about.
Initially at odds, the two men decide to work together in protecting Lala from her Uncle, and with the help of some fairy godmother magic, the three hide safely in their tree house. Gideon and Spike’s dynamic is very much the ‘odd couple’; as mortal enemies, their impulse is combat, but their shared concern and affection for the princess brings them into a mutual understanding. Personally, these two felt like the main characters of the book–even though the princess’s story has resolved, I wouldn’t mind following the bickering knight and dragon on more adventures.
Like all good fairytales, we need some villains–and boy, do we get some pretty major villains in this book. There is of course, Princess Lala’s uncle Lord Designs (related by marriage) whose drive for power not only caused the death of Lala’s parents, but had him make a deal with the Devil Himself using his only daughter’s soul as collateral. That daughter, Megan, is a soulless being with little attachment to anything in the world, and an icy indifference to morality. With the fickle help of a witch who spins magic like spiderwebs, the castle–and Lala Lilia–is doomed to fall into evil hands.
The deaths–and there are plenty of them in this book–are harrowing to read. The violence is never obscured behind the fancifulness of the setting, and the extreme body horror and moral injustice hearkens to classic fairytales–the cost of what is won is barely comparable to what was lost.
That shouldn’t scare you away from this book, though. I actually really appreciated seeing the consequences of all of our characters’ actions, and how even good things can lead to bad things. This is helped thanks to the ensemble cast, because the composite story is much more fascinating than the singular.
The biggest problem the book had was the emphasis on breasts or sex whenever relevant in Gideon’s point of view. Aside from being wholly unnecessary, it ground the otherwise-wonderful pacing of the book to a halt whenever it happened. I’m no prude, and I don’t mind ‘fanservice-y’ interludes or asides if done well, but it seemed inappropriate with the tone of the rest of the book. It just seemed a shame to rely on boob humor for the character when Tokino already gives us a fun comedic repertoire between Gideon and Spike. It’s a small part of the overall book, but it was noticeable whenever it happened.
Despite not knowing what to expect going in, the book was captivating. Little Princess in Fairy Forest has so much going on, I barely brushed the surface of it. It’s a marvelous little book, and at a single volume it’s not a huge commitment of time or expense. If you enjoy found family, creative re-imaginings or pure fairytale villainy, I can’t encourage you enough to read it.
Gee’s rating: Very Good
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