Pros: Neat tale with interesting characters
Cons: The style took some getting used to
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Nancy Springer’s The Oddling Prince introduces us to Aric, a 17-year-old prince, his dying father the king, and his doting mother the queen. A mysterious visitor to the castle–obviously of fey origin–saves the king’s life. Albaric, as the man is known, turns out to be the child of a forced union between the king and the Elven queen, which took place outside of time just a month earlier, and which the king remembers nothing of. The king, instead of being grateful for his life, can’t stand Albaric and is horrified that Aric takes to him immediately. As time goes on, the land begins to sicken, the king grows paranoid and violent, and Aric and Albaric only become closer.
My only negative is that the style has a bunch of bits like “verily” and “sooth”. I find it awkward and a bit melodramatic. Either the style grew more natural-sounding over time or I just got used to it, because it didn’t bother me as much toward the end of the book.
The characters are interesting, but somewhat one-sided, with the exception of the king and another relative who shows up later on. Evil characters (mostly a Lord Domberk who wants to take over) are one-note nasty characters. Good characters (such as Aric) are uniformly gracious, loving, and honorable.
The world-building is interesting. It’s semi-sorta set in the “real world”, in that Romans and Vikings are mentioned, and the legend of King Arthur. But it includes the existence of an Elfland, and magic as well (mostly in the form of a ring that is described as “a trickster” and that seems to have a mind of its own).
Mostly the focus of the story is on the relationship between Aric and the king. As the king descends into paranoia and rage, and Aric gradually comes into his own as an adult, things become quite tempestuous. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that what’s going on with the king is part of what makes this book so good. The ending certainly is odd, but in a good way.
I enjoyed The Oddling Prince, and would read more by Nancy Springer.