I just read the novel “The Oddling Prince” by Nancy Springer and overall I was a little disappointed. I read the synopsis and was pretty excited about the story to come. I didn’t really enjoy it. The language of the book felt inconsistent and a little archaic which pulled me out of the fantasy world frequently and made it hard to flow.
The story takes place in a land where a king falls ill on a hunting trip and comes home to die. A mysterious figure saves him in the night. This mysterious figure saves him by removing a ring from his finger. When all is revealed, the mysterious figure is actually the King’s son with the Elvish Queen. Since he has a son and wife already, the King is rather put out and since he doesn’t remember raising and training this second son (due to Elvish magic making him forget), he pretty much eschews this new boy. Luckily for the Elvish son, Albaric, the king’s human son, Aric, forges an instant bond with his brother and they proceed to have an adventure together for the rest of the novel.
I felt that the relationship between the brothers was just out of place. Not that they couldn’t have one, or that it had to be negative, but we have this teenage boy who immediately bonds with this stranger and for the rest of the novel has these insights and realizations about this other boy which essentially propel the story along. Not really believable for me. I think also there are some serious “hints” about myth and other stories that aren’t really explained which left me feeling the story was a little incomplete.
After I finished the book I went and read some reviews who just were completely 5 star reviews to see if I was missing something. People were comparing her past work to some of Fantasy’s Greats and so I then had to search what else she had produced. Most of her work I’d not heard of, then I got to a short story she wrote in 1986, “The Boy Who Plaited Manes”. This was one of my favorite fantasy short stories because it was the perfect blend of eldritch elven behavior and the comparative stupidity of man (as a race). Not sure if this means I’ll go search out her stuff or if I’m content thinking of her as a short story novelist. But it is something to consider.