The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below by Patrick Rothfuss (story) and Nate Taylor (art)
Author Patrick Rothfuss and artist Nate Taylor have teamed up again to bring us another picture book about the princess who lives in a marzipan castle and her stuffed teddy bear named Mr. Whiffle. You don’t need to have read the first book, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed (reviewed by Justin) to enjoy their latest adventure.
In The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below, the princess, whose background we know nothing about, has somehow acquired a baby brother. The princess isn’t too impressed with the boy for several reasons — he’s noisy, he’s perpetually damp, he requires feeding and cleaning, and he doesn’t like playing his big sister’s role-playing games (which involve torturing the stuffed animals). In fact, the princess would much rather he didn’t exist at all so she can go back to adventuring with Mr. Whiffle, her teddy bear. But when the little prince is stolen by goblins, the princess has a choice to make. Should she try to rescue him?
And now the reader has a choice to make, too, because there are three possible endings to this story. If you don’t like the first one, which is funny but morally unsatisfying, you can continue reading to the next one. And if you don’t like that ending because it’s even more morally objectionable, you can read the rest of the story and hope (hope!) it ends in a way that makes you feel better. I won’t tell you if it does…
Patrick Rothfuss’s story, which is very short, is completely entertaining, but what I liked best about The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below — in fact, what I loved about it — was Nate Taylor’s art. Although it’s clean and simple, it gives us much more information than the story does. For example, we don’t know who the princess’s parents are, but a couple of scenes give us some clues that make us want to know more (the image to the right shows the princess looking at the door of her father’s study). Likewise we learn most about the princess herself from the art — not the words. Taylor’s depictions of her animated facial expressions and body language are brilliantly juxtaposed with Rothfuss’s clipped emotionless narration. If your comedic taste runs toward deadpan, you’ll probably find this to be quite amusing. You can see more of the images at Subterranean Press, but my favorite pictures — those that depict the princess’s adventures in the dark underground goblin world — are not there.
Many readers have said that this series is not for children. I’d say rather that the series is not just for children. I was completely entertained by this book and then I turned it over to my kids who also enjoyed the art and the black humor (though I had to explain the Monty Python allusion to my daughter when she asked about it). But The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below probably shouldn’t be given to children who scare easily. (Or, maybe it should, if you’re into exposure therapy.)