Take a story with a fascinating premise, the promise of graphic novel panels as well as ordinary novel pages, and then give it a title like I Am Princess X, and you have instantly raised the expectations for your story.
Look at that cover! So modern, so in-your-face, so rad. I've heard of Cherie Priest, though I've not yet read any of her books. I'm working on that. I know she writes mainly for adults, so I'm holding out the hope that her adult work is better. Because, sadly, Princess X was a bit of a let-down.
I expected something QUIRKY with capital letters, something atmospheric and mysterious and engaging - something like a more polished version of The Kneebone Boy, maybe. If you don't know the gist of the story, you should check out Goodreads's summary. But, as it turns out, I Am Princess X is more like a simple mystery-slash-scavenger-hunt than a vaguely postmodern experimental story. Spoiler alert: there aren't even any supernatural/paranormal aspects to it! Sad day.
Sometimes resisting the call of "supernatural explanation" is very, very good for stories. Dragging in the paranormal can easily turn into getting an easy out. But the thing is, I don't think it would have been, for this story. The graphic novel part of the book, the comics that the MC and her missing best friend, has an incredible dark fairytale feeling to it; the art is good, the storyline is better, and the elements of the tale are the best. Creative, striking the perfect balance between unique and traditional - I loved these sections of the story.
But none of the story actually translated to the real-world mystery, except in the most mundane of ways. That was the biggest letdown.
Maybe it's my fault that I didn't enjoy the story more. Expectation is often the biggest killer in a book-reader relationship. But something in me still says that the story could have been more. You know that feeling you get when you're watching The Wizard of Oz and they pull back the curtain, and there, instead of a GRAND AND MAGNIFICENT WIZARD, it's just a little old man in a phonebooth?
Yeah. I Am Princess X is that little old man. Read it for the graphic novel; leave the curtain untouched.