This one was a bit difficult for me to write for a lot of the same reasons that most of the other books aimed at a younger audience are difficult for me to review. It’s not a bad story by any means and I feel like a younger me could have benefited greatly from reading something like this. Thanks to the folks at First Second this is The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. Enjoy!The Prince and the Dressmaker cover

Lady Crystallia is the belle of the ball, the woman every girl wants to be. She’s beautiful and charming and everyone loves her. Lady Crystallia is a secret. Prince Sebastian should be trying to find a betrothed, it’s what his parents want. It’s what he should want. Mostly he just wants his secret to stay hidden so he can keep being Lady Crystallia and going out at night. Frances knows Sebastian’s secret, she makes all of Lady Crystallia’s dresses after all. She’s Sebastian’s secret weapon and Lady Crystallia’s biggest fan, but can she bear to stay secret when all of Paris loves her work and she can’t say anything about it?

Jen Wang’s The Princess and the Dressmaker is a very attractive book. The art is nicely expressive and the costuming is beautiful. It’s very much a coming of age story, a finding yourself story, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Frances is, I think, the protagonist I identify with more. She has a dream she wants to follow, but her terrible job stifles it until she takes a risk and gets a lucky break. She gets to be the person seamstress for Sebastian the Crown Prince of Belgium. More than that she’s his secret weapon in living his truest life as Lady Crystallia, making his dresses and being allowed to create what she considers beautiful. But she can’t do anything with this creativity beyond making Sebastian’s dresses; she’s a secret keeping a secret. All she can do is watch as her fashions become popular without anyone knowing that they are hers. That leaves me perhaps more frustrated with Sebastian’s side of things than his character deserves.

This is, after all, a coming of age story and Sebastian is at most a teenager under a ton of stress from his parents and with a ton of fears about how people, especially his parents, would react. I feel like the story did a good job showing how badly the stress bothers Sebastian and how equally badly he handles it, but only occasionally. Mostly we see Lady Crystallia being the bell of the ball and Prince Sebastian being tired and disinterested in finding a betrothed. I feel like more could have been done with showing him trying to live up to being the kind of prince his parents want him to be. More could have also been done with Lady Crystallia as Sebastian’s sort of comfort zone, the person he becomes when he needs to be confident and comfortable. This is kind of a short book though, so there isn’t a ton of room for that.

Ultimately I am not the audience for The Prince and the Dressmaker, I think I am a little old for it and I’ve mostly found my footing. Coming of age stories are good and can be really enjoyable but this one wasn’t for me. The art was really nice and I would definitely read more of Jen Wang’s work in the future, so I’m giving this one a four out of five.

 

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