Rating: 5 stars
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King Volmar of Vagar is dying. Well, in truth, the King was assassinated 100 years ago, but has hung on after death due to enchantments. Now those magics have run out and the king will die completely. But who will reign after him? One son has been banished for treason and the remaining four will fight for the throne. But fairy legends have always stated that the youngest son will win out, no matter the circumstances. So when the king gives his sons all one month to prove themselves worthy of the title, the fallout is disastrous. One brother starts wars, another assassinates the youngest hoping to take his place. And Prince Kjarten? All he wants is to stay out of the way and continue his studies, but when his youngest brother is killed by the second youngest, Prince Kjarten realizes it is only a matter of time before his ambitious brothers turn on him too.
When the assassination attempt happens, Kjarten flings his injured self into the mortal world hoping to hide. The fairy prince has heard tales of the horrible humans and the nasty fate that awaits him at their hands. But nothing has prepared Kjarten for the truth when he is found by an artist searching for the answers to his own problems and future.
Artist and art gallery worker Joel Wilson’s life is full of problems. His ex boyfriend was a jerk who left him penniless and his boss who owns the art gallery where Joel works and shows his paintings is in financial trouble. In fact, that financial trouble involves loan sharks and other assorted criminals. Joel doesn’t know what to do. Then he finds an elf lying injured in an alleyway near his home and everything changes. Can a mortal artist and a elf prince pull together to save the kingdom and find true love?
Magical, funny, and absolutely absorbing. Those are the words that spring to mind when asked to describe my feelings after reading Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft. So many things to love about this book. First off? Beecroft keeps me off center with her characters. They aren’t what I expect them to be. And that’s at any point in time during the narrative. An elf prince? Why, gorgeous and etheral of course. But also self centered, isolated (by choice) so completely from his family that other important events escape him completely? That’s Kjarten too. Somewhat arrogant and cruel, although less so than his brothers? Check. Not exactly your normal fictional elf. Or maybe he is if you return to the old ways of thinking about the Fae. Then the personalities of Kjarten ring true.
But nothing about the characters you will meet within these pages are static portraits. No, these beings grow and change before your eyes, their natures metamorphosing along with the events, while still staying true to who they are at the most basic. Beecroft’s characterizations are marvelous and not just the elves either. From the Queen of England to the remarkable Joel Wilson, her human beings are more than a match for any elf, or goblin as the case may be. I loved them all too. It is so easy to become invested in all these people, elf and human alike, because the author has made the reader an intimate companion to them and their worlds. She brings us into their thoughts and hearts so that their vulnerability and insecurities help engage our affections immediately. And her worlds? Magical as well as mundane.
World building is also a creative gift and Beecroft has that in spades too. I loved the kingdom of Vagar. Ok, I didn’t love it. Its hateful and cold. But its also fascinating and full of creatures to amaze and wonder at. Including a dead king who is still around to muck up things for the kingdom. Here is King Volmar talking with his sons:
“Now we can start.”
“Thank you for that, youngest,” King Volmar of Vagar said in a dry voice, as Kjartan slipped into his place below Bjarti, with a whisper of silk and a curling trace of the scent of honeysuckle. “Since Kjartan has taken up all the time I had set aside in which to do this gently, I shall do it harshly and blame him.”
No change there, Kjartan thought, watching a new-hatched moth make its way out of his father’s mouth and fly towards the light of the sea.
“Today,” the king went on, stopping carefully between each phrase to reinflate his lungs, “marks the hundredth anniversary of my execution by the sea-people, at the instigation of your exiled brother Dagnar. I like to think that the intervening years have rubbed their faces in the fact that they didn’t win that one.”
He paused to wipe a cobweb from his left eye. “However, it seems the magic sustaining me can only do so much, and I have…” a court mage leaned down to whisper in his ear, “… only a month or so left.”
“No!” cried Gisli, apparently quite genuinely. “Father!”
Kjartan and Tyrnir shook their heads, one fondly, one in irritation. Bjarti just waited to find out what would happen next.
“So each of you has one month,” the king continued, unmoved, “to prove himself worthy of inheriting the throne.” As he wiped more moth larvae from his lips, his eyelids closed, apparently by themselves. He dragged them open wearily. “There was meant to be more pomp and ceremony, but Kjartan spoiled that. So off you go. Do something impressive, come back in a month and a day with proof, and I will decide between you.”
The King is literally being cocooned before their eyes, moth larvae spinning inside him, cobwebs flowing over his features. At one point, a servant licks the king’s eyeballs to give them moisture. Everything about the king is both repellent and compelling. A marvelous portrait in every way, a true mixture of evil and promise. And we see this type of thing over and over again in this story.
The human world is just as vibrant as the elf one. Life is not always kind to the people there either. And one can be a human and be as isolated from those around him by choice as an elf prince. Beecroft manages to draw comparisons between two very different individuals and their backgrounds with subtlety and finesse.
This book grabbed me from the start. I laughed, gasped, and wholeheartedly fell in love with all the characters involved here. And I loved the ending too, something that seems to be missing from so many stories these days. So while I was sorry to leave their company, I loved the way in which the author tied up the loose ends. I heartedly recommend this book. It’s terrific. Run, don’t walk, and pick it up.
Cover by Lou Harper is just perfect. I loved it as much as I did the story. Great job.