Princess Anya goes questing to fulfill a promise to her sister.
When Princess Anya’s stepstepfather, evil Duke Rikard, transforms her older sister’s latest love into a frog, the self-possessed white royal promises to transform him back. Alas, the Transmorgification Reversal Lip Balm is depleted in kissing the wrong frog, and Anya is forced on a dual quest to escape death by Duke Rikard and gather supplies for more balm. The third-person narration chronicles the high jinks that ensue as Anya sets off with her faithful talking canine companion, Ardent, and the transformed prince. Anya and company fall in with various intriguing characters: Bert (short for Roberta), the strong, capable, dark-skinned leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers (think Robin Hood), who challenges Anya to examine her princess privilege; the powerful and also dark-skinned and female Good Wizard; and the Wizard’s teacher, who’s both Merlin and Snow White (just one way Nix cleverly and hilariously turns fairy-tale tropes upside-down); as well as the Seven Dwarves. The characters are so enjoyable readers are sure to miss them when the quest (and book) ends. Refreshingly, there’s no romance plot here, and just as refreshingly, the two dark-skinned women are both beautiful and benevolent. Nix takes inspiration from classics and improves on them: he doesn’t fall into negative tropes and masterfully infuses the weight of first recognizing one’s privilege with humor.
Great fun with heart. (Fantasy. 10 & up)