Book Review : The Oddling Prince
By Nancy Springer
In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart.
The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.
The Oddling Prince is a tale of brothers whose love and loyalty to each other is such that it defies impending warfare, sundering seas, fated hatred, and the very course of time itself. In her long-awaited new fantasy novel, Nancy Springer (the Books of Isle series) explores the darkness of the human heart as well as its unceasing capacity for love. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review, all opinions are my own.
Historically the fey are nothing but trouble for humankind. In this case, the fey started the trouble, but didn’t necessarily end it. Why do the fey always cause problems? Because they’re immortal and we’re not is the simple answer. Maybe the more complex answer is that they can’t really understand love. So, the moral is when the fey fall in love, mortal better watch out. The whole time while reading The Oddling Prince, I felt like I was hearing a dream while underwater. In other words, it’s strange, but I liked it.
It has a mystical quality from the very beginning when we realize the king is dying not because of a war, assassin or other plague, but from a ring on his hand – a ring that won’t come off and we can guess that’s because it’s from another place, the fairyland.
I love to talk about characters in books, because the most interesting setting will still cause us to yawn if we don’t have someone to read about. I guess we’re fundamentally egocentric and want to read about ourselves in a book by identifying with the characters.
The two young men are different from one another, but fully accepting of each other. Aric, the protagonist, has been raised to be the heir. He feels unprepared to carry on the role with the demise of his father imminent. When he sees a supernatural event, which brings him a young man – obviously someone more than from this world because he is too beautiful – Aric must decide if he should allow the stranger to see his ailing father. The stranger frees the king from the vice-like hold the ring has held over him, but the king of Calidon doesn’t know who the young man is and dismisses him from his mind. Aric, on the other hand, feels profoundly grateful and seeks out this misplaced youth. He learns that Albaric and he have a strong connection, and he would be willing to die to preserve his life. What could cause such an intense reaction?
Warning!!! Big Spoiler Alert – do not read this short paragraph if you want a surprise!!! ———–I enjoyed their relationship, because they are willing to try to understand each other and express loyalty to each other as brothers. There was nothing sexual in their relationship. It is a very simple relationship, but complicated by their raging father, the king of Calidon. Both brothers are completely transparent and honest. The one is worldly and the other is naive.
Spoiler alert is finished.
The queen also recognizes the value that Albaric brings to the kingdom. Not only has he saved Calidon, the king, but he supports Aric as the heir. He proves his loyalty time and again without expecting a reward, but hopes that the king will remember him. The king of Calidon is obtuse and refuses to acknowledge Albaric and his goodness, but instead, sees him as a threat to his son. The king not only sees Albaric as a threat, but also other shadows and ghosts from the past – including his own son, Aric, as a potential enemy. The madness that shapes the king of Calidon defines this book as being different than other tales about fairies. If the father had just accepted and loved Albaric for all the good he had done the story would have been flat.
It is more of a psychological fantasy than an action fantasy. There are action scenes, arrows and swords, political maneuvering, but I think these are all overshadowed by the psychological exploration of characters between Aric, Albaric and the king of Calidon.
It’s very small complaint, but I thought the word “troth” was over used. Springer uses some beautiful language that adds to the other-wordly feel. Just too much troth for me.
Aric does mention casually that he could visit the girls in the kitchen to fulfill his desires as needed. There isn’t really much more than that in a sexual nature in the book.
I ended up liking this book and recommend it.
3.5-4 out of 5 stars
If you would like to read more books with a surreal or fairy-like quality try:
The Hollow Kingdom byClare B. Dunkle
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson