What is so funny about this book is the satirical take Healy has on the classic fairytales of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. He elaborates in such a delightful way on the character of each of the fairytale princesses and each of their respective Prince Charmings, who happen to be the stars of the book. First and foremost, these four men want you to know that their names are not Prince Charming, they are in fact Frederic, Duncan, Gustav, and Liam. Due to the misreported facts of all their kingdoms’ bards, their names have been forgotten.
As Healy elaborates on the princes’ stories, he shows readers each prince’s distinct personality. Frederic is afraid of danger and would prefer to have a pampered life. Duncan is a little dimwitted but completely adores his wife, Snow White. Gustav is Viking-esque in nature and is trying his absolute darndest to live up to the legendary stature of his 16 older brothers. Liam is the most classic Prince Charming of them all, using up all of his time performing death-defying feats of courage and strength to rescue citizens in his and surrounding kingdoms.
What hit me most about this book was Healy’s delivery of the stresses of gender stereotypes. He describes how these stereotypes affect both men and women. For men, they have to live up to the Prince Charming ideal, being brave and muscular and cunning. This is a lot to live up to, and stresses out each of these fairytale princes in different ways. For the women, especially Cinderella and Rapunzel, they have to live up to the damsel-in-distress motif and let men do everything for them. They each cannot stand living up to these boring standards, and would prefer to go out and live their own courageous adventures.
In the end, the characters become happiest when they defy the stereotypes they feel imprisoned by, and so much of the comedy comes from the reactions of others who are chained to living in a very gender orderly world. I can’t wait for the next book, in which the characters are sure to become even more of their own men and women, despite how all the fairytales tell them to act.
The Princes Charming finally get a chance to tell their own story.
Classic fairytale princesses get to break free from the damsel-in-distress stereotype.