Originally Posted: October 25, 2020
Written by Tsubaki Tokino with illustrations by Takashi Konno. Published in English by Cross Infinite World with a translation by Charis Messier.
Her words mix with the wind’s melody, the notes of the rustling leaves, then face away. Dragon and Knight turn to one another as they both watch over Princess, who now stands there alone.
“Looks like our truce is gettin’ an extension.”
“It goes against my wishes, but we have little choice.”
Dragon lifts his foreleg and Knight his fist – they quietly knock them together.
“For the princess.”
“For the princess.” – Tsubaki Tokino, at the beginning of the three’s life in the Black Forest.
This unlikely duo now must watch over the princess as she matures into the rightful(?) ruler of Reverfeat Castle. With a new identity and a forest full of game, this old knight has a chance to reignite his passion. How far will he go to fulfill his promises – those given to his princess, his captain, and, most importantly, his kingdom.
Little Princess in Fairy Forest is a fantasy light novel one-shot (standalone) set in a kingdom ravaged by a baseless takeover. Siegfried, popularly known as Lord Designs, deposed and disposed of the royal family – all except for one little princess. To legitimize his reign, Princess Lala is to be married to him – too bad she’s on-the-run! With nowhere to go, her two remaining knights are reduced to one. Gideon receives one final command before his captain’s heroic sacrifice: “Teach our princess [your] stubbornness.” Now it is up to the Thorn Knight to ensure Princess’s safety. Following this is a fantastical adventure with a variety of faces: dragons, witches, and demons, and more. By weaving together detailed exposition, hard-fought battles, and powerful magic, Tsubaki Tokino tells a tale of odd alliances, sinister machinations, and complementary princesses. Konno Takashi’s art then accents the text with a unique style inspired by the grim fairy-tales of old. There are only two questions to answer. How far will Siegfried go to capture the Princess? And how far will Gideon go to prevent it?
Did I get you excited about the book? I hope so! This title instantly caught my eye as I browsed my regular shop. With fantasy as the go-to genre, I was pleasantly surprised to find something so inspired by classical fairy-tales. Thus, Little Princess in Fairy Forest became the newest addition to my collection. This title is quite different from my other Cross Infinite world romance reads (reviews are here) but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s darker plot points, fantastical elements, and beautiful art come together to create an exciting read. And I managed to finish it all in one sitting! Now, for this mostly spoiler-free review (the setup, first 1/6th, will have some details), we’ll look at the setup, plot structure, characterizations, world-building, and more! And with that, I hope I can inform you about this wonderful book!
As always, let’s go over some first impressions. We all know the saying… but it was the cover that grabbed my attention. The unique style, the characters present, and the dark forest told me all I needed to know. It’s going to be something different. It’s a darker fantasy tale with magic, creatures, and knights – and the princess is this fairy-tale’s small ray of light. The beautiful front is then followed by 60,000 words of text. This length is on the longer end of standard (about 10 % shorter than Reincarnated as a Sword, Vol. 1 but 20 – 30 % longer than most Yen Press releases). With an expected price of 7 or 14 USD for the e-book or paperback, respectively, Little Princess in Fairy Forest provides above par length-per-dollar value. Finally, the book greets its entrants with three inserts (two coloured, and one greyscale) – all of which are on this page. The coloured dragon-back ride and fight against the usurpers depict two sides of this story: wide exploration and struggling against an unforgiving force. The character sheet then acts as a detailed introduction and a helpful reference. (Have I said that I love the style?!) And with that, let us get into the text!
To start, it has to be the foundations. The premise of the story is as the synopsis says; a thorny Knight protects the budding princess as they flee into the Forbidden Forest. The threats then come from two fronts. We expect dragons at the front and pursuers from the back. This is great for exciting developments and complex three-way conflicts. And the setting of the Forbidden Forest creates a foreboding atmosphere for all. For a fantasy adventure-genre story, this setup is ripe with potential. So, where does The Little Princess go from there? Well, the setup (first 1/6 of the book) was disappointing. Despite the hype surrounding the conflict surrounding dragons and knights, the threat is eliminated immediately without effort. And Siegfried’s men are (understandably) unable to pursue effectively in the forest. Instead, we have an odd subplot involving a demon and fairy-godmother that concludes with the start of their new life in the forest. It seems the purpose was to solidify Dragon and Knight’s relationship and their roles moving forward. To this end, it succeeds. However, the expectations from the synopsis are shattered. And that demon plays no role further in the story. With that, I’m sad to see such a weak start to this unique tale.
After the shaky beginnings, let us talk about the plot as a whole. The real story begins as the consequences of Siegfried’s actions unfold. With corruption and violence spreading throughout the kingdom, it is only a matter of time before the forest’s interior is affected as well. Little Princess shows its true strength starting here. After a year’s time-skip, the story solidifies around stopping Siegfried and reclaiming the throne. This simple plot goal creates an understandable trajectory but maintains the potential for fantastical hazards along the way. And the Lord will stop a nothing to find and marry the Princess. As atrocities begin to encroach on the trio’s new life, it is up to them to act… or lose everything. As the threat becomes more real, we explore different elements (read: dangers) of the world. However, the focus on defeating Siegfried is (almost) never lost. We will go no further for spoiler-based reasons. But rest assured that such evils grips the reader’s morality and uses it to fuel our investment in the protagonists. This plot and the ever-growing stakes combine into an exciting read with a satisfying conclusion. In short, Little Princess‘s plot is well-done. It is simple but sturdy, adventurous but focused.
Then, as every plot needs characters, we’ll delve into them next. Little Princess is much like the fairy-tales by which it is inspired; every character plays a role and doesn’t deviate much from their prescribed trope. There’s the worn-out knight, the innocent princess, the wise dragon, the maniacal lord, and more – everyone acts as one would expect. This is great for creating base characterizations. However, this implementation risks feeling unoriginal and having stagnant characters. For Little Princess, such issues are present but ignored in favour of playing the characters off one another. Instead of dramatic arcs, we’re given interesting dialogue or new obstacles to overcome. Almost every combination is shown at least once and adds another layer of fun to the mix. Yes, fun even includes the meetings with the baddies. These scenes add colour to the blank canvases that are the tropes. My personal favourites are the hooligan vs. sage conversations of Knight and Dragon and the discordance between Megan and Lala. This all works because the story has one goal in mind: overthrow the tyrant. There’s no need for a character to develop for it to be satisfying. And with that, Little Princess is firmly in the ‘plot-driven’ camp of stories. To summarize, like the fairy-tales it is inspired by, Little Princess avoids complex character arcs. This loss is more than balanced by the interactions between their big cast. If you enjoy that, Little Princess has a lot in store for you.
Now with the plot and characters described, let us talk about the world elements. As hinted by the previous discussions, it is very fairy-tale inspired. There’s a kingdom, magical forests, witch magic, curses, dragons, demons, and more! With so much on the table, it’s a wonder how Little Princess incorporates it all. It does this by focusing on a core element and relying on tropes for the rest. Like our discussion on the setup suggests, the core element is related to Dragon and Knight. I won’t go into detail because it’s pretty unique, and it develops alongside their relationship. However, if you were looking for The Alchemist Who Survived-levels of world-building, Little Princess is not for you. Very little is explained, but this just adds to the fairy-tale nature of it all. (And the short length wouldn’t allow for it.) Instead, each element affects the plot in their own little way: triggering a development, creating a hazard, forming a solution, etc. This creates memorable story points as each is tied to a particular power. And although my curiosity wants to know more, I’m satisfied with their implementation (lead-up and foreshadowing are well-done here). In short, Little Princess‘s world is interesting, fantastical, and varied. And despite the short length, it manages to expand on one plot-developing element and create memorable moments with the rest.
After talking about the constituents, let us talk about the adventure, action, and dialogue a little more. When I hear ‘adventure’, I think of an explorative journey with a wide array of characters, elements, and themes. Little Princess does well with its characters and fantastical elements but falls a little flat with the themes and journey. There are some deeper themes of ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘growing up’ sprinkled about, but they aren’t fully explored, and the overall message simply feels like “Don’t be an evil dude, dummy.” The journey also visits only a handful of locales in total (incl. the castle and the forest). In this case, the shorter length may have been the flaw. For a ‘breathtaking saga’, it is certainly lacking some parts. Next, it’s the action; there are many fights to be seen. While fantastical spectacle certainly plays a role, these scenes all have some narrative weight to them (maybe excepting the one in the beginning.) And with additional gruesome details added in, every fight is a thrill to read. My personal favourite is one a bit later in the book – it was just so cool! Finally, let’s talk about dialogue (heh). Each character has a unique manner of speech and well-defined relationships with the others. This clearly distinguishes speakers without the need for tags. It also makes dialogue more fun as I can easily imagine how everyone sounds! With all this, Little Princess is not the perfect read but does many things right.
At last, it’s time to knock out the additional details. In line with the LN adventure-type story, the writing is simple and descriptive. Little Princess does this to (1) create a full atmosphere in every scene and (2) give the action more “oomph”. For (1), as the reader is usually primed to learn more about a newly introduced element or character, it never feels frustrating to read. Then (2) comes from a similar discussion from my ROLL OVER AND DIE review, where in-depth depictions of action can enhance the experience instead of obstructing it. However, not all is good. There are instances of confusing sentences and inconsistent naming (the princess vs. Princess). These aren’t deal-breakers but can frustrate keen readers. Additionally, we should note there are many perspective changes. This is mostly to give Siegfried’s plans some background and foreshadow new threats. To reduce confusion, each section naturally progresses the plot and is given sufficient time/lead-up. Lastly, let us briefly appreciate the art. Little Princess has plenty (10+) of black-and-white art in the style of its character page (above): one reminiscent of classical fairy-tales. Their use in punctuating important scenes is skillful and further add to the darker tones ahead. And they remind of some stories from The Brothers Grimm. My only disappointment is that I wish there was more!
Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of Little Princess in Fairy Forest. This standalone light novel is very much like a larger fairy-tale. However, don’t let the synopsis fool you into thinking dragons and the forest are the real threats. It’s all about defeating Lord “Designs” Siegfried. Despite its disappointing start, the following 5/6’s are an engaging, dark, and focused journey towards this goal. The trope-like characters lack development but have many interactions to make up for it – Dragon and Knight are my personal favourites (and the main duo!) World-building is shallow but wide; this is in-line with other fairy-tales but Little Princess does well in focusing on one element in particular. The supporting fantastical elements (witches, demons, etc.) are interesting and memorable – with the latter coming from their ties to specific plot developments. And while the adventure-aspect is lacking in locale numbers and complex themes, the thrilling action and fun dialogue make up for it. Tsubaki Tokino’s descriptive writing and Takashi Konno’s grim illustrations come together to create an exciting unique experience for fantasy LN readers. And since this is a one-shot, I hope to read more of their other work in the future! See you all next week~!
4.0 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers of fantasy and fairy-tales; it’s a unique treat for light novel readers everywhere!
To lovers of battle-hardened knights, wise dragons, sly witches, and adorable princesses.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my review (even if you scrolled straight to the bottom). I hope that you take home even a little of what I’ve written down.
If you’re still on the fence after this review… please take some more time to appreciate the art. I love the grim and fantastical feel, and its style is very different from the standard LN’s. This one-shot’s experience is good on many fronts!
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” I’ve only started diving into light novels, so please bear with my naiveté. You can follow my Twitter for updates on my reviews and writing progress. And if you want to talk about light novels with me and many others, consider joining our Discord here! Let’s all get along!
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