Book Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tachyon Publications (May 15, 2018)
Length: 288 pages
Long ago in the highlands of Northern Scotland there lived a kind and just king. However, one day he returned home from a hunting trip with his son Prince Aric and found that a cursed ring had suddenly appeared on his finger. With no way of removing it, the ring quickly caused the king to sicken until he was close to death. But just as his father was about to slip away, Prince Aric noticed a mysterious young man riding hard for the castle. Using his magic, this newcomer was able to remove the ring just in time to save the king’s life. He then introduced himself as Prince Albaric from the Faerie realm, revealing that he was also Prince Aric’s half-brother, conceived when the Fae queen seduced the king and transported him to the otherworld. His story also explained how the enchanted ring first came to be on the king’s finger.
But rather than feel grateful towards Albaric, the king refused to even acknowledge him as his son. Worse, as Aric and Albaric grew closer, their brotherly bond only caused their father’s hostility to worsen. No longer good and just, the king became bitter, paranoid, and angry. Concerned for his father and troubled by the changes wrought on the kingdom, Aric also started to worry for his half-brother. Exiled from the land of the Fae and with no home to return to, Albaric’s only hope was to be accepted by his mortal father, but sadly, the king’s mind would not be easily swayed.
In order to save the kingdom, Aric must somehow find a way to help Albaric make peace with their father before the king’s resentment can bring ruin upon them all. In essence, this familial conflict serves as the backbone of The Oddling Prince. A fantasy inspired by folklore and mythology, the novel lends itself to be compared to stories of Arthurian legend, as it is written in a style that evokes that same kind of quaintness and sentimentality. Much of this is due to the book’s somewhat archaic tone and language, which was elegant and lyrical but also served to bog down the prose. As a result, it took me quite a while to get into the flow of the story, for the same elements used to impart an old-fashioned flavor also made it very awkward and slow to read.
Tales of this type are also often heavy in metaphor and deep in meaning, but lighter in terms of character and story development. So even though I found The Oddling Prince to be a sweet and charming little book, I was not surprised to feel little to no connection to the characters. Like a Disney movie, you just knew deep in your heart everything would work out fine, despite all the seemingly insurmountable challenges thrown in the protagonists’ way. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say this novel was completely devoid of surprises, there were simply no genuine threats or high stakes to make you feel any real concern. There was also this thick layer of idealism in the depiction of Aric and Albaric’s relationship—which was intentional, I am sure, given the sentimental nature of this story. But again, this just made them feel like cardboard heroes out of a fairy tale, not real enough to relate to.
Still, there were a lot of aspects I really liked. Despite the book’s fanciful tones, there were some powerful tensions between Aric and his father. I wouldn’t say this story had a real antagonist, but with the king being such a huge jerk, I would say he came the closest. In the face of his irrational fury and jealousies though, Aric remained steadfastly on Albaric’s side, refusing to be cowed. This loyalty to his brother was heartwarming and beautiful, and ended up being the highlight of this book. And even though she was a rather late introduction, I also loved the character of Marissa. The portrayal of her relationship with Aric may have left a lot to be desired, but her personality was so lovable that she immediately became a favorite.
In the end, I thought The Oddling Prince was an enjoyable read, though at times it felt a little too light and lacking in substance. However, if you like reading fantasy stories that are heavily inspired by fae-related folktales or mythological influences, this one might be worth checking out. The underlying wistfulness and dated feel of the writing may take some getting used to, but all the same, these elements might prove to be the novel’s biggest selling point for those seeking an evocative tale told in an old-timey, sentimental style.