Anita Renaghan’s Prince S is a delightful addition to the young adult fantasy genre. S. Avalon Hall, a girl, is raised by the king of Fontanasia as a boy. The king needs to have a rightful heir to the throne to protect his rule and to ensure that the Hall family maintains their control in the kingdom. Not many know the secret and as Avalon grows up, she worries that their family secret will be discovered.
At the age of fourteen, Avalon embarks on a dangerous mission to Cormicks, a faraway land, which is also a secret from most of those who live in Fontanasia. The journey proves to be dangerous and Avalon has to endure sand eels, everred spiders, and other scary and deadly creatures. But the real threat is back home. Can Avalon make it back to Fontanasia in time to save her father and her family’s right to rule the kingdom?
Renaghan’s novel isn’t just a fantasy novel. It’s a character study. The reader really gets inside Avalon’s head and knows her fears and desires. Keeping her gender a secret is a great weight for someone so young. An important aspect of all novels is character development. Many books in the fantasy genre emphasize the world-building and action and forget that readers want to get to know the characters, especially the main character. This connection keeps them reading and makes them want to know more, which is key to any fantasy series. This novel is the first in the Prince S series.
It’s wonderful to have a heroine in a fantasy novel for young adults. There has been an increase of female leads in this genre and Renaghan’s novel adds a unique twist. Keeping a secret such as Avalon’s is not an easy feat and adds to the suspense. As the readers follow Avalon on her adventures the fear that her true identity will be discovered will constantly be in the back of their minds.
Avalon is the type of character that many will cheer for. She’s brave, smart, shy, and an underdog. The young woman is like many teens, but with two added burdens. Her secret is the biggest. And she has to become king someday.
Renaghan’s novel does a good job of keeping the reader guessing. It’s nearly impossible to guess who Avalon can trust and who she can’t. The twists and turns continue all the way to the end making it a fun read.
Since this is the first in the series, it might be useful for the author to point out a couple of flaws. First, there are some typos that may distract the reader. At one point, Renaghan writes, “it never peaked her interest” instead of piqued her interest. Another sentence that may throw some readers is, “she couldn’t imagine why should would need protection from him.” These are just a couple of examples. Editing and proofreading are vital steps for any author.
Second: while character development is crucial, don’t let it take over the story. Most of the action happens in the last half of the novel. It may be hard for some young readers to stay interested. As mentioned earlier, characters matter, but this isn’t the type of story that allows the characters to dominate completely. Keep the readers interested by finding the right balance of character development and action.
The strength of Avalon as a character and all the action in the second half will hopefully win over many readers. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here. The possibilities are endless and the author has a vivid imagination.