Locus: It’s surprising that Cherie Priest hasn’t made the jump into full-on young-adult fiction before. Many of her previous books, like Boneshaker, Dreadnought and the rest of the Clockwork Century, could easily be marketed to a younger audience. I Am Princess X, however, is the first one that is explicitly aimed at the 12 and over set.
The story itself is fairly straightforward. Libby and May meet in elementary school and become BFF. The friendship ends, however, because Libby is killed in a car accident as a young teen and May moves away from their shared pocket of Seattle. May comes back to visit her old stomping grounds and starts spotting Princess X stickers everywhere, which wouldn’t be a big deal except Princess X is a character she and Libby created as kids. Libby, it turns out, might not be as dead as May has been led to believe.
May’s hunt for her lost friend isn’t told simply with words. Interspersed with a straightforward narrative are comics-style pages that fill in the gaps in the Princess X story; we learn about how this mysterious, katana-wielding, webcomic-starring princess found herself on the search for four keys and how May realizes that the keys are actually aimed at her. It’s a refreshing take on a standard “magic ticket” story.
What’s also refreshing is the lack of a romantic subplot. Priest’s Princess is about the lasting power of friendship, rather than about finding a boyfriend. It’s a fun, oddly cheerful murder mystery that pushes against some of the restrictions of straight-up words on a page.