Verdict: Looking past some forced exposition and occasion technical problems, THE SHADOW PRINCE is definitely setting up an interesting series.
Rowan, the teenaged prince of Avalon’s twisted fire court, is taken by surprise when his vicious mother announces that she will be abdicating her throne in favor of him. Being king would give Rowan the chance to change the fire court for the better, a chance to end the cruelty and the caste system on which the court is based. It is everything he and his best friend, and bodyguard, Marcus have ever dreamed of. However, Rowan’s mother, the malicious Queen Prisma, is not about to just give Rowan her crown. In order to be crowned king, Rowan must reenter the mortal world and kill the halfling princess, Kalin, of the air court. While at first it seems like a cruel but necessary sacrifice, the closer Rowan gets to the act, the more he questions whether or not he is really capable of murder.
As a prequel, THE SHADOW PRINCE is very effective. Author Stacey O’Neale provides just enough character and world detail to draw a reader in. The plot of THE SHADOW PRINCE itself suffers from being compacted to fit within a smaller format, but as this is a novella and not a full novel, this claustrophobia is somewhat expected and therefore not detrimental. Far more important than the plot are the interesting relationship dynamics established. Three key relationships rule this novella: that between Prisma and Rowan; between Rowan and Marcus; and the hint of something between Kalin and Rowan. While occasionally extreme, all of these relationships feel authentic and are the main source of interest in the story.
While at times it feels as though O’Neale rams a lot of exposition down the readers’ throats at once, it is clear how much thought she has given these characters and the world of Avalon. Rowan is clearly a sixteen-year-old boy. In fact, at times it feels like O’Neale is pushing his age a little too much. Some of the interactions between Rowan and Marcus come across as caricatures as opposed to realistic. Real boys do not always act like the magazine stereotype and do not explain themselves without prompting, as Rowan tends to do. While O’Neale clearly knows Rowan and Marcus inside-and-out, it would perhaps be better if she kept some of her knowledge to herself. THE SHADOW PRINCE could definitely benefit from a ‘less is more’ and a ‘show, not tell’ approach.
THE SHADOW PRINCE does not have the makings of a stand-alone novel, but as a part of a bigger picture, it adds great background and draws a reader into what promises to be an interesting world.The version of Avalon that O’Neale has introduced holds the potential for many interesting and exciting adventures.
Looking past some forced exposition and occasion technical problems, THE SHADOW PRINCE is definitely setting up an interesting series.
Reviewed by Victoria Walters for IndieReader