SECOND SON is set in a fictional kingdom but highly grounded in historical fact based on several European countries. Alfred is the second son of the king’s second son, making him just about last in line for the throne, but his intelligence, ingenuity, and diligence finds him favor with his grandfather early on in life. This also leads to hardship, however, when Alfred is captured and the kidnapper expects the king to pay a ransom Alfred knows won’t come. Can he use all of his knowledge and strength to survive in order to get back to his kingdom, his family, and his loving wife?
In the genre of historically inspired fiction, Taylor has done a marvelous job of combining fact, fantasy, and fun. Readers will enjoy Alfred’s tale without getting too bogged down in explanations, and her decision to base the story in a fictional kingdom removes the ability for naysayers to point out the names of the actual royal bloodline during this period. The story reads easily and will be enjoyable for those who prefer this type of blended historical fiction. Others who are expecting more intense intrigue or twists might be disappointed, but mostly, the story relies on a simple interest in the period and in the characters. It’s important to remember, too, that this is the first book in a series, so it’s best not to expect a definitive ending to this volume.
The one major problem with SECOND SON is that it begins with Alfred’s capture before the reader is able to get to know him or even like him. This in medias res opening goes on for quite some time before the reader is taken back to Alfred’s youth and introduced to the major players in his life. The book might benefit from starting here—and the story being told in a linear fashion—so the reader can bond with the main character and care about his plight before it occurs. Other than this, there are only a few sentences that could turn off some readers, such as when Alfred mentions that his wife is “untainted” by a fear of having sex, unlike other women of his time.
Alfred’s tale is comfortable, familiar, and overwhelmingly admirable and even though it might take the reader some time to bond with him, he eventually becomes a worthy hero in his own right.
~Julia Tilford for IndieReader