Book Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

I’m struggling with a way to begin this review that won’t sound like I’m incoherently top-coverbabbling about how much I loved reading this because, for me, it’s just that great a book. So, I’ll start in the usual way, with a short summary of the book.

The Oddling Prince takes place in the kingdom of Calidon in ancient Scotland and revolves around two princes, brothers, one of them fey. One day Prince Aric is out riding with his father when suddenly a ring appears on his father’s finger as if from no where and after that the king falls ill. After being ill for some time, and as he lay dying, suddenly a fey boy shows up claiming to want to save the king. He declares himself Albaric, son to King Bardaric and brother to Aric. This causes a great shock to the royal family, and most everyone seems to fear the fey boy, except for Aric who feels an immediate affinity with  Albaric. Together they’ll work to overcome the darkness that has invaded the King and the kingdom of Calidon since the king’s illness.

To start off, the immediate thing that grabbed me about this book was the prose. I was hooked from the first page because I fell in love with the way in which this book was written. It’s a very stylistic prose, and at times may feel a bit archaic to some, but this wasn’t a barrier for me and instead felt like an invitation to another time and place. This is just the type of touch that draws me in to a story.

I was so emotionally involved with this book and its characters. There are certain types of stories, or parts of stories, that I empathize with more than others. The thing that makes me weep, that pierces my heart, is when a character, innocently, naively, is yearning to be loved. And then is cruelly denied that love and doesn’t always understand why–why are they not able to be loved? This book has a lot of that, with Albaric having no one, except Aric, who accepts him in this new mortal world. He seems strangely alright with facing his own mortality, and is even willing to end things when his father, once his only companion in the fey lands, doesn’t remember him and rejects him. King Bardaric is constantly hurting Albaric, by not only ignoring him, but by actively and cruelly pushing him away and trying to separate him from Aric. Because of their bond, Aric, from whose POV the story is told, feels his brother’s anguish and is the only one that can bring him comfort. He is the only one that understands. And so, yes, I wept through much of this book. (But it was a good crying! The best, most cathartic, kind of crying!)

I loved both Aric and Aldaric, but there were other characters to love as well. Queen Evalin is a wonderful character. Full of love for her family, but also practical and full of strength, she does her best to hold everything together when things start to fall apart. And then there is Marissa, a headstrong young girl, daughter of King Bardaric’s enemy. At first she seemed precocious but there is a reason that she seems a little wise beyond her years. Like Aric’s mother, she is practical as well, and also has a great capacity for love. One of the things I loved most about this is that it is full of characters that you want to see achieve happiness. Aric is already a good person at the beginning of the story. You immediately love him and want to root for him in all things. But he doesn’t see himself as being able to be as great as his father, his king, whom he idolizes.

This is a story about love–not romantic love–but about love of your family but also (and maybe especially) love of yourself. Prince Aric, from the beginning, talks about how ordinary he is, and how he doesn’t feel very prince-like. He has these self-doubts throughout the story here and there but they become overshadowed by more immediate concerns, his worry for his new brother and over his father’s sudden personality change, not to mention an invasion from one of their vassals. Through all of these things, and especially through love of his brother, he learns to love himself and who he has become by the end of the tale. This is an extraordinary tale of transformation of self, not just of Aric, but also of his father, who didn’t know how to deal with the trauma of a horrific ordeal he went through in the fey lands and had to learn to accept himself again in order to accept others.

I know it’s only February, it’s early yet and there are a lot of books ahead of me, but this very well could end up being my favorite book of the year. Rated 5/5 stars on goodreads.

I’d like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book for review. The Oddling Prince comes out May 25th from Tachyon Publications.

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