Queen Aglaia is expecting a state visit from the Empress Cixtisis, a meeting both consider an ordeal and imposition, yet one that must take place for reasons of state, at least if Aglaia wants the men back in her kingdom. Will the cruel Cixtisis be willing to return them?

When it comes to intrigue, manipulations and deceptions, The Crown has nothing on Algaia and Cixistis. In The Song of Aglaia Anne Simon detailed Algaia’s path from commoner to Queen, and The Empress Cixtisis is more of the same playful fantasy with additionally perverse ingredients. Otherwise it’s the same spoilt behaviour, whimsical cruelty and inventive fantasy that we might now expect from Simon. Algaia and Cixistis dislike each other from the start, each has their advisor, and watching them in action is the equivalent of expert fencers cutting and thrusting at each other.

In the previous volume Simon constantly switched her artistic approach according to the particular fairy tale variation she was playing with, but after a simpler start, here she settles into the ornate and individually coloured style seen on the sample pages. The strange humanoid animals cavort around and an army of dancing chips is sent to war, and if that sort of fairy tale whimsy doesn’t appeal, neither will Simon’s fantasy.

Everything builds to a clever solution, foreshadowed in the regal indulgences we’re shown when Cixtisis arrives. The rapid curtailment of where we expect the story to travel is something of a speciality for Simon, who has absolutely no interest in the war she generates other than needing it for her plot. It’s dashed off in a few panels, and is all the funnier for that. Simon closes by providing more laughs with a few epilogue strips. Anyone tuned into Simon’s world is going to love this as much as The Song of Algaia.

In 2018 a third book followed in France, the title translating as The Potato Child, presumably also to be issued by Fantagraphics in the fullness of time.