Monday, October 16, 2017

Useless Warrior Princess by Segilola Salami

I was asked to review this book by the author. According to the blurb, the story is about a young princess who wants to become a warrior but faces several challenges. On the surface this sounds like a great theme, however, the execution of the book leaves a lot to be desired.

This book starts with a warning that any resemblance to other people or events is coincidental. This immediately made me curious as to why she would need a disclaimer in a children's story. The reason became obvious quickly.

The story is heavily influenced by the television series "Avatar: The Last Air Bender" with a quasi-feminine twist. Aang is replaced by Princess Jade and there are two additional Kingdoms (Metal and Warrior). The first half of the book is devoted to explaining each kingdom and their exports. The next quarter of the story is devoted to Jade manipulating her family into allowing her to attend the Warrior Academy, a boy only fighting school. The final quarter of the book deals with Jade's depression about not doing well at the school, an attack by the Fire Kingdom, and Jade's decision to sacrifice herself in order to be remembered as something other than the "Useless Warrior Princess". The final few pages list the author's other books, which are all centered around the Yaruba language and customs, and an "Author Interview" with an undisclosed interviewer.

The topics of depression and volunteering to be killed for the cause as a child's story aside, this story has several issues. Jade uses manipulation to get into a boy only school and then when she doesn't do well, the school is blamed because they didn't change the curriculum to suit her. At the end of the story, it's blatantly explained that the school didn't know how to teach girls and that's the only reason she failed. To illustrate this point the author uses a quote often attributed to Albert Einstien about judging a fish's ability to climb a tree. The quote is mangled to where an eel climbs the tree but the fish is still considered stupid. Given how the quote makes no sense it's probably a good thing that the author failed to provide any reference or attribution for it.

I have a fundamental issue with the concept of this story being about equality as it's teaching girls that "equality" means that male-oriented activities must provide a segregated and specialized version for girls instead of teaching them that they can succeed if they are willing to put in the effort and acknowledge their own strengths.

The artwork in the book also has issues. The author used a digital program to cut and paste clipart images onto a pre-created background. The clipart pieces include topless mermaids with a star photoshopped over the breasts like you would see on a cable television show and copyrighted characters from various shows including Disney movies.

I am presuming based on the fact that all of the author's other books are about a different language and culture that English is not her first language. This would account for the multiple errors in grammar and punctuation. Proper nouns are not capitalized and several sentences are missing commas or periods. The structure of several sentences also seems awkward. Using a free writing editor would have caught 90% of the basic grammar errors within the story.

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