The Princess in Black


  • The Princess in Black
  • written by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
  • illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • published by Candlewick Press (2014)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when….wait a minute, wait a minute. Duchess Wigtower? How awesome a name is that? And it doesn’t end there.

How can you not love a book with a passage like this:

 In the courtyard, Frimplepants was nibbling an apple. He swished his sparkly tail. He pranced on his golden hooves. He gave the horn upon his brow a little toss.
 Clearly, Frimplepants was a unicorn.
 Or was he?

Stupendous! Isn’t the suspense killing you? Was he or wasn’t he a unicorn??


After I first read the synopsis for this book, I knew it was a book my daughter would love. The first few pages confused her a little since she didn’t understand why the book was called The Princess in Black when Princess Magnolia was most certainly dressed all in pink.

My daughter does not have a princess fixation. On more than once occasion, she’s told me that princesses “aren’t cool.” The first few pages had a rocky start. However, once she figured out that the princess has a secret superhero identity, she was all in.

Yes. A princess who moonlights as a superhero. Can’t say I have anything to complain about here. We need more books about female superheroes and girls taking control of their lives and going after what they want. Princess Magnolia doesn’t sit idly in her castle, talking to birds and waiting for her prince.

She’s out there, beating up monsters and saving Duff the Goat Boy.

And Frimplepants the unicorn? (I couldn’t leave you hanging.) Just like Prince Adam’s Cringer (there’s a nice 80s reference for ya), he’s got a cool secret identify too. He’s really Blacky, the faithful pony.

So what’s happening here? The Princess in Black is off on a mission to stop a big blue monster from eating up all the goats he can find. She needs to send the monster back to Monster Land before the snoopy Duchess Wigtower uncovers her secret identify back at the castle.

And that Duchess Wigtower can’t be trusted. Just as soon as Princess Magnolia is out of the room, she’s opening drawers and closets, looking for anything incriminating.


This heavily illustrated chapter book is so charmingly written and drawn that it’s nearly impossible to not love it immediately. It’s appropriate for young readers to read to themselves, but it’s also just a joy to read aloud. Which means it’s perfect for almost everyone, right down to the preschool set.

The most pleasing aspect of the book for us? The subtle “#1” on the spine. Hopefully, there will be more titles in this series. I know at least one little girl who is excited to see more of The Princess in Black’s exploits.


Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.