I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal
Libby and May are best friends. They discovered each other when they were both excused from gym class, Libby due to injury and May because of her asthma. To fill the time, they create Princess X, a sword-bearing heroine who saves the world from evil. Libby is the artist, and May writes the stories. Until Libby and her mother are killed in a terrible car accident. May’s parents divorce and she lives part-time with her mother in Atlanta, and part-time with her father in Seattle where she and Libby created the Princess. May tries to get the many notebooks full of their stories, but they have already been cleaned out of Libby’s former house. May is sure this is the end of both Libby and the Princess in her life. And then, Princess X starts to show up- a sticker in a closed coffee shop window, a drawing, a website: iamprincessx.com. May is sure Libby must be behind the webcomic she finds at the site, and sets out to find her friend, now convinced that Libby isn’t dead and needs May’s help to escape the man who kidnapped her those years ago.
This is a really good story, if a little slow in spots. I listened to the audiobook, read by Mary Robinette Kowal, who, along with being an author herself, is a puppeteer and so brings a whole cast of character voices to the reading. Each character is different, brought to life by the author’s development and their individual voices. I did not have the advantage of seeing the comic parts of the story drawn out, but the interludes where they occur are clear and easily understood.
At its heart this is a YA murder mystery and it works well. There are a few twists and I kind of expected a different turn at the end, but wasn’t disappointed with what did happen. And, unusually so for YA, there is no romance. There are boy-girl interactions, but they are simply friends without the burden of romantic issues. It was rather refreshing to me, as I find most YA romance to be unrealistic at best, and downright dumb at worst. But then, I am far from the target audience of these stories. The mystery is handled well, and the clues from the comic are worked into the real story cleverly. Nothing is simplistic, and May has to work a bit to figure things out completely.
The setting is the city of Seattle, where May and Libby became friends. There is good use of actual parts of the city, and the fictional inserts are close to seamless.
I enjoyed the story, although I can understand those who miss seeing the actual comic panels in the print versions. The reading was well done, and kept me interested in the story. I didn’t find myself missing the actual comic panels.
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