Warning: This book review does contain some spoilers for “The Prince And The Dressmaker” by Jen Wang.
I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing the graphic novel “The Prince And The Dressmaker” by Jen Wang! I actually reviewed one of Wang’s works before, and I’m glad to pick up another piece by her. Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:
“Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.”
Worldbuilding Development: 3 out of 5 stars
I’m surprised there weren’t more consequences to Sebastian being forced to reveal that he wore dresses half the time. This book takes place in France (as far as I understand, in the 1800s or so). I’m not a history expert, but I’m sure that there would be more social consequences than just running away to a monastery in the mountains. This is especially important considering that Sebastian is the prince in the royal family. I would have less of an issue with this if the setting was in a fantasy world or an alternate-history setting. However, if one judged this book against historical accuracy, a lot of the things that happen in the latter half of the book don’t make sense or at least shouldn’t be resolved so easily.
Other than that point, however, I did enjoy how Sebastian and his father did reflect on the changing of the times (which lent a hand with Sebastian’s father eventually accepting his son for the gender-nonconforming parts). I just think these parts could be executed better if the overall setting was different.
Character Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I enjoyed reading Sebastian and Frances, as well as their friendship-to-romance. I’m not going to write an individual romance development section this time around, however. This is because there wasn’t much of a hint of romance up until the last quarter of the story. It was fine that they got together at the end, but I as a reader preferred them to stay friends. This is because they had a more friendship-oriented chemistry, rather than many hints of building romance.
As individual characters, I enjoyed reading Frances a little more than Sebastian. I thought that Frances’ decisions made sense; at first she worked for Sebastian because of the opportunities she had (including a much better pay and boss in general). Also, she wasn’t afraid to leave his employ when she realized that it actually limited her long-term opportunities. I sympathized with Sebastian as a reader, when it came to trying to fit his parents and others’ expectations. However, some of the actions he did (going out at night alone in his Lady Crystallia disguise and getting drunk) weren’t exactly smart to do. Some of these actions could’ve posed a serious risk to his safety, realistically.
As for the other characters, I enjoyed reading Sebastian’s supportive manservant and wished there was more of him involved in the story. I also enjoyed reading Sebastian’s parents and their complicated relationship with him. Juliana’s brother came out of nowhere for me as a reader, and mainly was there as a plot device to cause problems for our protagonists.
Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The main story was overall straightforward, but this wasn’t a bad thing this time around. Sebastian and Frances’ friendship-to-romance was challenged by the secrets they had to keep. Sebastian masquerading as Lady Crystallia to wear the dresses that Frances makes for him was a fun plot point. However, I also enjoyed how it caused problems for Frances on a personal level. It was fascinating, reading how she and Sebastian had to figure things out. I thought it was a nice story overall.
The problems ensuing with Sebastian eventually being found out about his dress-wearing could have more depth. Either that, or it could have more struggle to resolve. There would be further consequences if the story strictly followed how things went down for people in the time period this graphic novel took place in. The way the story resolved the problems felt too fast and too-easily resolved.
Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!
It’s a nice story to read overall. The lack of realism in its setting might be confusing some readers (especially those who are very knowledgeable of France in the 1800s). However, the art style is beautiful (especially with the dresses!). Also, the story itself is straightforward but overall nice to read.
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