Monday, July 9, 2018

The Slave Prince by Jeyna Grace, 2018

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For fifteen years, Thom believed he was a prince of Alpenwhist. He had climbed the castle turrets to survey his kingdom, learned to duel with the sharpest blades, and stirred up palace intrigue in disguise. But one day his identity is suddenly shattered by the revelations of a blind woman: he learns that he isn’t a prince at all, but a wretched slave.

In a kingdom where ruthlessness is part of everyday life, Thom fears this new truth could be deadly. He takes flight, running from the life he knew and the one he despises, but the call to free his people beckons him home. Armed with a magic stone that instructs him through surreal visions, he must topple his once beloved brother who has since become a tyrannical king.

A fantastical retelling of the story of Moses, Thom’s adventure forces him to question if he can succeed in his quest without truly understanding who he is. He must unravel his past, present, and future before he can set his people free.

(280 pages)

I hate to say it, but The Slave Prince would have been better if it weren't a retelling of a Biblical tale.

Why? Because as soon as I realized that it was a pretty close adaptation of the original story, I knew exactly how it was going to end. It's hard to create suspense when you've told the reader the exact blueprint you're using.

That's not to say that The Slave Prince isn't a good book, though–far from it, actually! Grace takes the bare blueprint of the story (Moses's adoption into the royal family, banishment after killing an Egyptian, etc.) and paints a beautiful new world onto it.

I think my favorite part of the book is actually the introduction, which describes the story of how the Eklaysians were forced to flee their beautiful home country and seek refuge in Alpenwhist, then eventually become enslaved by their adopted countrymen. It's a sad tale, but told absolutely beautifully. The first few chapters, showing Thom's life before he fled Alpenwhist, are similarly wonderfully done: they quickly paint a picture of everyday life in the brutal city, as well as the royal family's rough dynamics and Thom's spotty relationship with his adoptive older brother.

I have a few gripes about the logic of some of the characters' decisions (mainly with Thom and his royal brother Dedric, both of whom seem to make decisions based more on the plot's demands than on logic or character traits/history). I also kind of hated Thom by the end of the book, because he let the magic do such horrible things to Alpenwhist. I know he does it for a good cause, and that it's meant to be okay because he behaves a lot like Moses did in real life, but the difference is that Moses was following the commands of God, the Creator of the universe, who had the authority to do such things to his creations. Thom, on the other hand, is just blindly obeying an old magic stone that called to him in a cave. Maybe he has a right to be so terrible to the people of Alpenwhist since they've been so brutal to the Eklaysians, but that's something that should be wrestled with even more than it is in the story.

All in all, The Slave Prince was a very magical and innovative retelling of the story of Moses. I would have enjoyed it even more if Grace had jumped off the rails and made up her own story after Thom left Alpenwhist, but as a retelling of Moses The Slave Prince manages to see the story through to the end, doing so in a way that underscores just how disturbing the plagues would have been. If you're looking for a regular entertainment read, this wouldn't be the first on my list. However, as a retelling of Moses, I would definitely recommend The Slave Prince.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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