The Rebel Prince by Celine Kiernan is the last in a trilogy about the medieval-fantasy, semi-political adventures of Wynter Moorehawke.
Blurb: King. Country. Crown. What would you die for?
Wynter Moorehawk has braved bandits and Loup-Garous to find her way to Alberon–the exiled, rebel prince. But now that she’s there, she will learn firsthand that politics is a deadly mistress. With the king and his heir on the edge of war and alliances made with deadly enemies, the Kingdom is torn not just by civil war–but strife between the various factions as well. Wynter knows that no one has the answer to the problems that plague the Kingdom–and she knows that their differences will not just tear apart her friends–but the Kingdom as well.
Wynter, her friends, and the Merron tribe arrive at Alberon’s camp and reality slams back around our trio, reminding them of their social and political divisions. I hate diplomatic, political speak and it’s frustrating, at first, watching Razi and Wynter dance around the issues with Alberon. But whether it’s a result of their close relationship or the long journey away from court, it doesn’t take too long to cut to the chase and lay it all on the table. Finally, we get the answers that have been sought since the trilogy began. But not all at once – we get bits and pieces slowly building to a whole. And a whole ‘nother side to the story as we finally get to meet Alberon and learn his side of everything that has been happening.
And it’s a mess. A huge, jumbly, messy mess of wrongs and rights and do the ends justify the means and how to save a kingdom and it’s people and alliances made with those you hate for the sake of a purpose and how far should a leader have to sacrifice or compromise for his duty and responsibilities. The division between Alberon & his father is chasmic and I honestly thought war was inevitable. I just couldn’t see how Wynter and Razi would be able to mediate or resolve the differences of opinion (and approach) between the king and his disowned son.
Wynter also has to make her own choices and decide where to stand on her own convictions; political and social expectations, and the relationship she has established with Christopher, a social inferior so far as the court is concerned. In the second book, Christopher made his stance clear when introducing Wynter to his people and protecting her from the Loups-Garous. Wynter has the same opportunity here and you can’t help but love Christopher all the more for his patience and lack of pressure while she wrestles with the decision.
You’ve heard the cliche about a crisis balancing on the edge of a knife? Well, it’s quite literal in The Rebel Prince. And not everything gets wrapped up in a pretty bow once the fog clears and the weapons are laid down. But it feels like it does. After a long series of drawing out every detail and explaining every action, the story stops in the middle of a huge tumult and then is wrapped up in a sugary-sweet epilogue. If you felt cheated by The Hobbit (and Lord of the Rings) employ of “The eagles are coming” then you’ll likely feel a bit excluded from the resolutory action here.
Oh, but you finally get an answer for the whole wolves question. Frankly, while the ghosts served a narrative purpose in the first and second book (albeit small purposes), the talking cats were fun but felt like a bit of an unnecessary contrivance. And then you get “wolves” right in the latter third of this last volume and it felt out of left field. Going back & rereading, I can see where Kiernan sprinkled little hints along the way. But I think there has to be some basis to foreshadowing. Explaining what I mean through a different popular series – in Twilight, the hints that are laid regarding Edward being a vampire only work because the reader knows about the concept of vampires in the first place. The semi-fantasy/semi-reality world Wynter lives in never hints at the existence of anything outside of ghosts and talking cats (both of which are mentioned almost immediately in the first chapter of the first volume) so “wolves” being anything besides a solely canine-type animal felt like a sudden lurch in the established world-building.
All that being said, I enjoyed this series and it is difficult to browse through a volume looking for a particular passage as I find myself an hour later, happily rereading the entire thing. Have you read any books that grab you every time you pick them up?
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