What do you do with an emperor who has “the heart of a rotten onion and the spine of a soup noodle”?
You teach him a lesson, of course, and two venerable, omniscient Ancestors will do just that, plucking him from the palace to do so. No one is exempt from their magical plan: Alfalfa the dairy cow runs away, pursued by her milkmaid, Begonia. In short order she meets Key, a self-appointed rescuer of damsels in distress. In their travels, damsel-not-in-distress Begonia and Key encounter a very rude and cowardly young man escorted by an ostrich. When Alfalfa and the ostrich fall in love and run away together, Begonia, Key, and the stranger (who readers will no doubt guess is the emperor) follow. Meanwhile, a trio of villainous noblemen schemes to take the throne, and a greedy con man is out to procure a “postrich” for his traveling carnival. Together, and without knowing it, Begonia and Key are on a mission to get the rightful emperor back to the throne. After he learns his lesson, of course. The evocation of the emperor and his palace relies on Orientalist tropes, but the countryside where the bulk of the story takes place feels like many a faux-European medieval countryside. Begonia, Key, and the emperor are drawn on the cover with black hair and light skin, though the emperor has the look of a movie Genghis Khan. Cheeky commentary about class and feminism, giggle-inducing wordplay, and jokes about the ridiculousness of imperial overindulgence round out this story.
Readers looking for easy laughs will find them here. (Fantasy. 8-13)