4 out of 4 stars
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In the kingdom of Bandidon, populated by many humble peasants and a few aristocrats, identical twins vie for the throne vacated by their recently deceased father. Prince Bryand, intelligent and chivalrous, was the king's choice, but rascally Prince Daron steals his twin's identity, locks Bryand into the deepest dungeon, and is crowned king.
Bryand escapes his cell and flees the castle. Encumbered with a widow and two rowdy children that he has promised to protect, he sets out in search of allies who will help him retake the throne. While dodging Daron's pursuing soldiers, he and his protégés encounter obstacles in the form of floods, wolves, giant lizards, man-eating monsters, and more.
Meanwhile, Daron recruits several confederates to hunt down and eliminate Bryand and his allies. Enjoying his new status, Daron pays court to his twin's lovely fiancée, MeAnne, with whom he has long been infatuated.
Will Bryand find help? Can he elude his pursuers? Will Daron be able to sustain his masquerade? Can he trust his accomplices? Only time will tell.
One of the best features of A Prince of a King by Gene Abravaya is the author's use of wordplay in a way reminiscent of Piers Anthony and his land of Xanth. Not only do all the characters have distinctive personalities, but many also have names indicative of a particular characteristic, such as Malady, the sickly widow under Bryand's protection; Nightshade, Daron's poison specialist; and Sanctimonious, head priest of Bandidon's 183-god religion. Place names sometimes receive the same treatment. A dip in Lake Imakidagen, for instance, can restore youthful vigor.
Humor is another appealing element of this entertaining fantasy adventure. Even in the most serious circumstances, whether battling Woolly-Bullies or fleeing the Gormandizer, the participants continue to exchange witty comments. And the book's steady flow of bathroom jokes may amuse some readers.
The most important factor in the success of this novel, however, is not the magic, monsters, or mayhem. It is the truly engaging characters and their understandable aspirations, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. As the story moves along, each person faces challenges that promote growth and self-awareness. Even wicked Prince Daron begins to consider the consequences of his behavior.
A Prince of a King deserves 4 out of 4 stars for its superb worldbuilding, realistic and relatable characters, and clever wordplay. Readers who appreciate lighthearted fantasy stories or humorous adventure tales will enjoy this book. The writing is smooth, and the editing is excellent, with just a few minor typos that do not cause any problems.
A Prince of a King
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