Emma Bull is best-known to readers as a writer of urban fantasy novels, including War for the Oaks, Bone Dance, and Finder. She is also a musician involved with the bands Cats Laughing and the Flash Girls. However, in this book she turns her hand to writing fairy tales, and is, in my humble opinion, very successful.
Susan Gaber has illustrated quite a number of children’s books, including The Baker’s Dozen and The Women who Flummoxed the Fairies. The illustrations for The Princess and the Lord of Night were done in watercolour and coloured pencil on Stathmore Bristol board. They have been lovingly executed and complement the text wonderfully. The Princess and the Lord of Night is the story of a cursed princess. Her curse, bestowed upon her at birth by the Lord of Night, is that she must be given everything that she wants or else the kingdom will fall into ruin and the king and queen will die.
Of course your first thought would be that the princess must be a spoilt brat, like the princess in The Frog Prince. On the contrary, she feels terrible about the curse. For her there is nothing worse than watching the king and queen rushing to satisfy her every want, afraid that the Lord of Night will appear at any moment to claim his victory.
Our story takes place on the day of the princess’ thirteenth birthday. She dreams of something she wants, but resolves not to tell the king and queen. Instead she decides to go and get it for herself. The rest of the story is about how she fulfills her quest, and like all good fairy tales there is a happy resolution.
This story by Emma Bull follows all the traditions of the fairy tales of old with the exception that the hero is female. All the characters are referred to by their titles — king, queen, princess; it is only the villain who is named, but even then it is only as the Lord of Night.
The princess is accompanied on her quest by four animal companions (a slight variation as the traditional number is three), her horse, her dog, her cat and her crow. There are also magical objects, a cloak of invisibility and a ring that can be used to make wishes come true, either the wearer’s wish or the wish of the person it is directed towards.
This is a lovely fairy tale for readers of all ages, and is beautifully illustrated by Susan Gaber. I hope that in the future, this story will be included in the treasuries of fairy tales that I cherished as a child.
For other stories of strong women you might wish to read Fearless Girls edited by Kathleen Ragan, or the soon to be released Not One Damsel in Distress edited by Jane Yolen. Both these books are anthologies of folktales from around the world which feature strong female characters.
(Harcourt and Brace, 1994)