...What started as a fish-out-of-water story quickly evolves into something far more. Fantasy and YA readers should definitely pick this up. ...
Injured fighting a dragon, fourteen-year-old Prince Riloh must be sent to a world with no magic to heal. Coming out of his coma in a strange American hospital where he knows no one, he befriends Sofie, a thirteen-year-old patient with cancer. In his world the disease would be easily cured by magic, but here there is no magic, and then he finds that Sophie is keeping a much more dangerous secret from him.
What started as a fish-out-of-water story quickly evolves into something far more: a strangely familiar story, links between worlds, and only the friendship between a maimed prince and a dying girl to keep them both alive. The world building is very well done, and even with the little time the book spends in Artica, you get a feel for the culture and history just from the characters, the little asides they make, and their views and actions. You quickly learn this fairytale kingdom is more Brothers Grimm than modern TV. The fantasy kingdom might have magic, but we learn immediately that magic can’t do everything. Cutting back and forth between Riloh in the modern day and his brother Syrien in Artica there are two distinct plot threads early on, which quickly merge into one in the mystery in the modern day. The slowly darkening tone and building menace as the book goes from a light teen romp to something far more complex is masterfully done.
The characterisation is excellent. Even some of the supporting characters have arcs, and everyone comes across as having their own personality, depths, and motives. Sophie in particular is a wonderfully written character: she is quite upfront about her prognosis even while the people around her try not to think about it. Her friendship with Riloh is true to life, and Riloh’s progression from spoiled prince to true friend is a wonderful piece of development.
At one point I was getting worried that all the plot threads were going nowhere, but I shouldn’t have worried, as the author wraps them all up before the fairytale ending – as dark as Hans Christian Anderson original. I didn’t sniffle, but the last two pages did make me feel rather like I’d been punched. Be warned, reading ahead will spoil the book.
Fantasy and YA readers should definitely pick this up.Rating: 4
Reviewed on: 2016-04-16
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