Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

Review by Sandra Ruttan

When once upon a time ended, mortal time began. And when mortal time began it came with betrayal and murder.

51agxqz0ttl-_sy346_The Oddling Prince begins with King Baldaric on his death bed. His not-yet-quite-of-age son, Prince Aric, is desperate because he knows he is not ready to rule and be half the great leader his father has been. As Baldaric is about to make a dying declaration to his son a disruption from outside the castle forces Aric from his father’s deathbed. While the guards cower, Aric must confront a mysterious stranger who wants to see the king.

This stranger pledges that he means the king no harm and Aric takes him to his father’s bedside. He removes the ring that had causes the king’s illness and the king is restored to health.

The stranger, Albaric, has some unexplained connection to the king and Aric senses goodness in him and welcomes him. When Albaric tells his tale the king does not believe it, although Aric readily welcomes him as his half-brother and even Queen Evalin trusts in Albaric’s story. How Baldaric’s rejection of Albaric prompts Aric and others to act serves as a catalyst for a story that is about love, hate, acceptance, rejection, revenge, forgiveness, loyalty, betrayal, desire, loss, duty and honor.

The Oddling Prince is a quest, but if you are looking for a traditional quest you won’t find it here. It’s an intriguing story that has many twists and turns. Baldaric’s rejection of Albaric creates a gulf between Baldaric and Aric while Aric and Albaric bond. The fears and guilt that fester in the king’s soul are manifested throughout the land and although at one point Aric was concerned about saving his father the larger concern of saving the kingdom ultimately dominates everything. Can Aric, who has found true love as well as the love of a brother, find a way to unite his family so that they can live in peace? Or will sins of the past lead to a tragic future?

I do not want to give anything about this story away. It was an absolute delight to read. While Albaric is referred to throughout the story as fey, because he arrived magically, has strange powers and an air about him that sets him apart as different, I felt the writing was somehow magical and airy as well. The story flows steadily, like water in a stream, and although there are some heavy issues in the story there is an underlying optimism that carries the reader into the darker parts with a sense of hope. The author weaves surprises in the plot with a hypnotic style that had me under her spell and I was sorry to reach the end. While there is a ring and magic and mysteries to be explained, what was also compelling was how the ring wasn’t good or evil; it responded to things within a person. There are some wonderful coming of age elements in this story, because Aric has to learn to see his parents not just as elders who are responsible and wise but as people who were once young and made mistakes. He must see them as the people they were before they married each other, with ambitions and talents and adventures of their own. And Aric’s parents must learn to see that their son is no longer a boy but a man.