A young white man who doesn’t want to play by society’s rules finds his bliss in this frothy alternative fairy tale.
Phillip’s manipulative, scheming stepmother is using the outdated pea-hidden-under-20-mattresses test to identify a genuinely royal bride. While quite clear that he does not want to marry a woman, Philip is a bit less sure of what he does want—that is, until he meets the darkly alluring Daniel and everything goes haywire. What follows is a mashup of fairy-tale tropes, including blessings and curses from fairies, brave quests to save loved ones from spells and dungeons, and the magical power of a kiss. The humorous, satirical tone is reminiscent of Jean Ferris and Gerald Morris, but the characters remain two-dimensional and difficult to differentiate, and magical elements appear conveniently when needed to resolve most problems. It is disappointing that a work intended to challenge homophobia unnecessarily demeans age and fatness (in a large cast of beautiful people, the evil stepmother has “wrinkles and lines, like an apple left on the windowsill too long”; and the lone fat princess’s appetite becomes a source of cheap humor). There is a remarkable lack of ethnic diversity, with even the few characters described as having dark complexions elsewhere appearing as “tan” or with “olive skin.”
While the overarching message—“Your happiness shouldn’t deny another’s happiness. Don’t ever try to deny a person their happily ever after”—is commendable, the novel lacks heft. (Fantasy. 12-18)