Author: Torina Kingsley
Originally Published by Trunk Up Books in 2021
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Inspired by the Russian folktale The Princess Who Never Laughed, The King’s Decree follows Princess Devina who suffers from depression. Just before her 16th birthday the King and Queen decree that the first man to make Devina laugh will be given her hand in marriage – regardless of Devina’s wishes. Yasmin is a village girl who comes to work in the palace kitchens. After getting lost in the corridors, Yasmin meets Princess Devina. The pair quickly bond and Yasmin becomes determined to be there for Devina in her time of need. Over the course of the story, Devina begins to realise that perhaps it is not laughter she needs but friendship and love. The only problem is convincing her parents of this.
Although I was initially surprised by the inclusions of dual narrators, I quickly warmed to both characters and I found their journeys through the story to be equally compelling.
The King’s Decree is a short story that covers many important topics. These topics include: depression and mental health, grief and loss, loneliness and isolation, and friendship and love. What is most impressive however is how these topics fit and flow together effortlessly within the story. At no point does the plot feel forced or the pacing rushed. Devina and Yasmin’s stories come together and lead naturally into the exploration of these topics.
Aimed at older children and teenagers, author Torina Kingsley wrote The King’s Decree in the hope of bringing awareness of mental health to young people through literature. The short story depicts both sides of mental health – what it can be like living with mental health issues (Devina’s story) and how it can feel when someone you care about is struggling (Yasmin’s story). This story is impactful because it normalises both having and talking about mental health issues. Kindness is encouraged and the importance of being there for others is discussed. Crucially, The King’s Degree explains to its younger readers that mental health is a complex thing that takes time to heal. There is nothing wrong with not feeling alright all of the time.
The longer I read this story the more I enjoyed it. The King’s Decree is easy to read with an engaging narrative and realistic protagonists. I wish Kingsley every success in reaching younger readers with her work however I also feel readers of all ages could find meaning in the message of this short story.
The King’s Decree was published on Reedsy Discovery in February 2021. This review is also available on Discovery’s website. You can check it out here.