In The Crown Princess’ Voyage by Dylan Madeley, politics, subterfuge, and war guide the plot as established characters move into broader, more demanding battles.
Kensrik, Osterik, and the Coast do not always get along, but a few clever machinations and a fleet of massive warships with strange, new weapons propel them into open conflict. A crown princess, a knight, a goddess, and several very confused city states take turns leading the narrative.
Although Crown Princess Chandra is ostensibly the main character – and certainly the titular lead – the story shifts between different points of view. Derek is really the lead of this adventure – he’s the one directly involved in conflicts, and he follows a much clearer and more engaging developmental arc than his monarch can claim. Chandra’s continued distress over past events does not really lead anywhere, and the several early chapters from her point of view are more a way to ramp up tension than progress the plot.
To counter that slight weakness, Alathea makes a splendid villain. As the goddess of her people, she is utterly confident and almost supernaturally driven. Her fight with the Longneck early on does a good job introducing her primary weapon as well as her reliance on it. Although her interactions with Derek seem a little too blunt and easy to read, she has a frigid potential that is realized every time she dons her mask. Of all the flashback sequences in the story, the retelling of her brutal training and ascent to power are some of the finest.
One of the most powerful moments in the novel is when the Kensrik troop revisit the Festival Woods. Anyone who has ever been part of any tradition, no matter how small, can feel the ache of that lost history. Descriptions of the names carved unceremoniously into the stage by generations of different players, the uniqueness of each lost campsite, and all the things no builder could replace ring true with actual loss.
Put together, the book is a great read for adolescents and young adults. The age of the characters ties them to that particular age group, but so does the pacing and style of the novel as a whole. Introspective scenes are clipped and to the point without rushing the story’s pace, while dialogue flows comfortably between characters, and there are relatively few unnecessary discussions. For readers new to the trilogy, the first half of the narrative brings readers up to speed on past incidents and gives a chance to become acquainted with the characters. In the second half of the book, readers hop from one fight scene to another with a few pauses, usually to acknowledge Chandra’s presence in the background.
Overall, The Crown Princess’ Voyage is fast-paced, engaging, and has some starkly memorable characters. The detailed map in the beginning allows readers to orient themselves as the action progresses, which is always a major advantage of original world fantasies. Readers most definitely want to start with The Gift-Knight’s Quest, but this book works all on its own as well, and fortunately promises more to come.
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