Crave Woods has an affliction he hides from just about everyone: he has the ability to sink down into the ground and travel through the earth. His adoptive parents have made it very clear that Crave is a freak and that if others find out what he can do, he could be in big trouble. Crave was left on his parents’ doorstep as an infant and has been raised as part of the Woods family, but they are clear they don’t really like him and treat him poorly.
One day, Crave is traveling through the ground when he pops up near Devin Dumtsteed, a Ministry agent. Devin is there to track down someone suspected of using super powers to cause earthquakes that are threatening the safety of a nearby mine. Devin is drawn to Crave immediately, and once he meets Crave, Devin realizes he would never cause harm to anyone by starting the earthquakes. When Crave learns what is going on, he agrees to help Devin investigate the problems at the mine.
While Devin and Crave explore their attraction to one another, things are in chaos all around them. Someone is causing the earthquakes. Crave is kidnapped and almost killed. And no one knows the real truth about Crave’s parentage, though his super powers indicate he is of royal blood. Now Devin and Crave must work together to get answers to who is behind all the trouble before it is too late.
The Lost Prince is part of the Royal Powers universe, a multi-author collection in a shared world. I picked this one up after enjoying the first book I read in this series, Duking it Out, and because I am a super powers junkie. I also found the premise really interesting here, as I have never read any super hero books with ground burrowing powers. So I was intrigued by the set up, as well as interested to see Crave using his powers in the cave in. As it turns out, those elements are really what carried the book for me. The set up was original, Crave’s powers were unusual, and the cave in scenes had some excitement. However, I found that I had some real issues with much of this book overall.
First off, I found this book needed some good editing. There is a lot of repetition, with the same information provided over and over, sometimes within a few pages. There were also editorial mistakes, which in a few cases really threw me out of the story as I tried to figure out what the author intended to say. The story also just felt very on the surface, with very little depth or nuance to the plot or the characters. We see things happen or are told about them, but nothing felt developed enough to really give the characters depth. For example, we know that Devin works to support his lazy parents (and we are told this multiple times), but we never get any real emotion behind how he feels about it or how it has affected him or his relationship with them. Or we know that Crave is mistreated by his family, but again, there is no real insight into his feelings or how this affects him or has shaped him as a person. As a result, both of these characters felt flat to me, as did their relationship. They see each other, fall instantly in lust, and within days are ready to spend their lives together. But I felt no real connection towards them because I didn’t feel like I knew them beyond the surface, nor did I get any feeling for why they were drawn to each other.
The world building here felt similarly lacking. Honestly, if I hadn’t read an earlier book in the collection, along with some other posts and reviews, I really don’t think I would have had a clue what was happening in the larger world. The premise of the series is that royals have super powers (as do their illegitimate offspring), but only royals are legally allowed to use those powers. And the once unified country was divided into north and south and there is a big political feud. But the only reason I knew these things was from outside reading. Neither issue is clarified in the story at all, though passing references are made to things we are supposed to understand as readers, despite them not being really addressed here. I think it will lead to confusion for new readers since this series is billed as set of standalone books.
Aside from the series world building, even issues within the story are unclear. Crave’s super power is interesting and unusual, but aside from that, I feel we are left with so many unanswered questions. Crave and Devin have some sort of crackle between them when they first touch and then Crave gets visions. Both men also seem to get amped up powers as a result of interacting with each other. But we never know why these things happen and they are never explored. It seemed like a huge issue to bring up and then just leave unaddressed. The mystery of Crave’s real parentage is barely addressed, either. I mean, clearly he is going to find out he is a prince, given the title. But it is crammed into the book at the 11th hour with no development or lead up. Just suddenly, he finds out the truth and hurray! It’s all resolved. Given the title of the story, and the series focus on royals with super powers, this seemed too much like an afterthought just thrown away at the end.
There were other places where I felt the story just didn’t fully come together or make sense. For example, when Crave first meets Devin in the woods, he somehow suddenly just knows that Devin is a government official sent after him. For his part, Devin seems to immediately realize Crave is the guy he is seeking just because he happens to stumble upon him. Then just as quickly, Devin is convinced that Crave is a good guy and couldn’t be behind the problems. Also, Crave has lived this sheltered, near isolated life. Yet he seems to adapt to situations with no problem, and floats from naive to confident in ways that felt confusing to me. On top of that, there is a weird new plot thrown in at the end with regards to a private school and people being murdered (and the school hiring prostitutes for their students?) and it felt totally out of left field.
So unfortunately, this story had an interesting foundation and the ground traveling element adds a little excitement toward the end with the cave in. But the writing just never delved below the surface for me and so the characters and plot just lacked depth. When combined with the very limited world building, this story didn’t really move much past the initial premise.