Monday, March 23, 2015

The Chosen Prince by Diane Stanley, 2015

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From master storyteller Diane Stanley comes a spellbinding tale based on Shakespeare's The Tempest of two princes--one chosen, one lost--and a mysterious girl on a magical island, all caught in a great web of destiny.
On the day of his birth, Prince Alexos is revealed to be the long-awaited champion of Athene. He grows up lonely, conscious of all that is expected of him. But Alexos discovers that being a champion isn't about fame and glory--it's about sacrifice and courage.
Alexos follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria and faces the greatest challenge of his life. 

(368 pages)

I . . . really don't know if I liked this book. I suppose if I have to think so hard the answer is "no," but it just isn't that simple. On one hand, I loved it. It was deep, moving, and meaningful, with a lovable main character and an emotionally manipulative plot. On the other hand, I spent most of the book semi-loathing said main character, because I didn't know if I could bring myself to love someone who had done what he did. I both empathized with and despised Alexos, and my stomach twisted (and still twists right now, actually) at the horrible event that happens a third of the way into the book.

On the other hand, I loved Alexos for how much his father and the gods put him through. He never really gets a childhood, loses his ability to walk correctly to a summer sickness that sounds a lot like polio, and is practically cast aside by his ruthless father after becoming crippled. Despite all this (and perhaps even because of some of it), he is strong, good, and kind, wishing for nothing more than to make his kingdom a better place. I only wish a certain event had not happened, or at least not happened the way it did, because I could have really, really, loved Alexos for everything he went through. As it was, I couldn't help feeling (horrible as it sounds) like perhaps he deserved everything that happened to him. If I read the book again now I would probably like it a lot better, but I still hate The Chosen Prince for the way it utterly horrified me just far enough in that I couldn't stop reading, but early enough that I spent the majority of the book miserable.

A lot of the other reviews I've read of this book complain about the narration, which is third person present, calling it clumsy and distracting. The only times I had any trouble with it were when something was being talked about in past tense. I'm so used to reading third person in past tense that I had a hard time remembering that when say, the narration talks about what Alexos did, it's talking about something that happened before the scene I'm currently reading. This was a relatively minor issue, though, and overall it worked fine for me. Props to Stanley for trying something new!

I absolutely love Diane Stanley's Silver Bowl trilogy, and her standalone Bella at Midnight is a fun fairy tale retelling that isn't wonderful, but isn't horrible. This, however, almost feels like a different author wrote it altogether, and I don't think I'm as big a fan of this author as I am of the other. I do love The Chosen Prince, but I also hate it. And I don't think I'll be recommending it to anyone any time soon, just because I don't want to be the one to recommend something so horrifying, but I can't really give a very good warning about it without spoiling the whole story. So if you're deciding whether or not to read it, I can't really help you. I'm sorry!

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