4 out of 4 stars
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The more you grow accustomed to a specific literary genre, the more critical you become of either the worldbuilding or the author’s style. I plead guilty to such charges when it comes to sword and sorcery fantasy. With the growing number of books being published in this genre, I have had the chance to read plenty of them over the last few years. I can thus safely say that Crown Prince by W.D. Kilpack III stands out from the crowd. The novel impressed me with amazing descriptions, complex characters, and intriguing supernatural elements.
Although this is only book one in the New Blood series, the storyline is incredibly promising. The author has a flair for setting the scene and creating memorable characters. Natharr, the Guardian of Maarihk, is endowed with Sight, an exceptional ability to look into the past or foretell the future. Both a blessing and a curse, this ability makes him responsible for all the inhabitants of Maarihk, be they Aa or Firstblood. Like his grandfather and father before him, Natharr needs to give up his personal life and be ready to defend the kingdom at all costs.
When the adventure begins, Maarihk is torn apart by a war of succession. Brandt of the Green has breached the Riverside Gate of Erig, the capital city. Meanwhile, King Valane is on the verge of losing his beautiful Firstblood bride, Queen LaNila of Nordaal. If Brandt’s army conquers the capital, the fate of Vikari, the newborn Crown Prince, is sealed. Natharr’s duty is to make sure the prince is safe. Together with the little boy and his wet nurse, Darshelle, he seeks refuge in the depths of the Ancient Wood, a primal forest populated with Wild Beasts and various tribes of woodfolk. Their survival is a must, especially since the Year of New Blood is coming with major changes.
The 13 chapters of the novel are long and elaborate, each of them focusing on a significant moment in the development of the plot. The third-person narrator mostly switches between Natharr’s and Darshelle’s perspectives, occasionally focusing on Vikari/Nathan too. Natharr’s visionary skills favor flashbacks and flashforwards that add more mystery to the story and keep us in suspense. Apart from this, I absolutely loved the descriptive prowess of this author. It was the thing I enjoyed most about the book. W. D. Kilpack III genuinely takes the time to help us immerse in the fantasy world. No matter if he describes a battle scene, a peaceful moment, or a mythological creature like a Hamadryad or a Manticore, he always manages to conjure the best images in our minds.
The Ancient Wood is the perfect magical setting. The author does a great job of incorporating the supernatural elements in a general atmosphere of myth and legend. Time and space have different coordinates matching the fairy tale narrative network. There was nothing I disliked about this novel. Natharr is an interesting character who is not depicted in black and white as typical protagonists in fantasy literature. Despite his bravery and resilience, he has doubts and fears and is willing to admit his mistakes. I was particularly happy that Natharr had an equally strong feminine counterpart in Darshelle. Belonging to the Qaan nation, Darshelle was still a young girl when her own father gave her as a gift to King Valane. The comparison between women’s position in Qaan and Maarihk is only the pretext for more extensive discussions on women’s roles in society and gender equality. Talika, the elder huntress of the lion-folk tribe, and Ulla, Darshelle and Nathan’s Atomie companion, are also skillfully described.
All things considered, I am rating Crown Prince by W.D. Kilpack III 4 out of 4 stars. The author’s storytelling gift is doubled by an excellent editing. Ancient prophecies and rituals complement a passionate love story flourishing in the most unexpected circumstances. There are some intense erotic scenes, so I would say the book is more appropriate for young adult and adult readers. No matter how rough the physical confrontations get, they are not excessively graphic. Profanities are absent altogether. Fans of sword and sorcery fantasy will definitely find this novel a delightful read. I am convinced the series has the potential to acquire epic dimensions in the next books. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Order of Light.
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