All right, two things I want to start off this review with, I think I’ll choose the confession first: I loved “The Lost Prince.” Did not go in knowing what to expect and it ended up blindsiding me. Though I really liked “The Iron Fey” original series – I’ll admit something about “Lost Prince” drew me in and didn’t let go until the last page – for the journey, narrative, and the characterization. I kept late hours reading this book, and usually when that happens, especially if it ends up being a book I read through twice, even more of a sign that it’ll be among my favorites.
If you haven’t read the Iron Fey series, I don’t think starting this book will jar you too much, but reading the previous series would give you background on some of the characters and developments in the world of the Nevernever, as well as insight on some of the character struggles and their respective roles in this particular book . This story begins with Meghan Chase’s little brother, Ethan, who’s now 17 and all grown up to be – well, a bit of a rebel kid. (He’s also pretty easy on the eyes judging from the awesome cover.) Ethan’s not really that far from being in the same predicament as Meghan was when “Iron King” began – he’s getting into trouble at school, and after moving around constantly, he’s hoping to stay out of trouble long enough to at least appease his parents. But the secret that Ethan has that actually gets him into this kind of trouble: he can see the fey. He tries to pretend he can’t, though they are around his life more than he would like. He keeps others away with his blunt attitude and quick dismissal because he doesn’t want to be hurt or have anyone hurt on his behalf. But behind the rough facade, Ethan’s a boy who’s hurting. He’s lost his sister to the world of the Fey, and he lives with the childhood nightmares of being tortured in the Nevernever when he was four and kidnapped by fey before being saved by his sister (which was the premise to the original first book in the Iron Fey series – “The Iron King”). Yet when a new kind of Fey show up in Ethan’s town and not only kidnap a friend of his, but also threaten his life and the people he loves, Ethan has no choice but to journey into the Nevernever and find his sister to warn her kingdom of the danger, as well as find pieces to the whereabouts of his friend.
All right, unpopular opinion time: I liked Ethan in reflecting upon this book; I really did. He made a much fuller narrator than Megan did for me in places of the Iron Fey series. Some might argue that Ethan’s a bit too gruff and angst-ridden, but I saw the reasons behind his behavior. He’s an appropriately flawed character – that gave him a layer of honesty in his perception of things and navigating around his relationships, alongside the difficulties he has with them. I also liked the attention to his characterization – he does have redeemable factors in his personality (geeking out over Firefly and Serenity included) and willingness to step up to the plate to help when he has to.
The flow of the action is very well done in this book – transitioning from some of the relationships that Ethan has to the relevant danger he faces with the new Fey creatures and the potential discovery of his secret (particularly by the rather inquisitive Kenzie). You can tell Ethan doesn’t want to be drawn into the world and has intense sentiments against it, but even then you understand why and how he progressively transitions to the point of going into the Nevernever, and not only being in (reluctant) awe of it, but also transitioning to its environment.
Kenzie is a new character in this series and is a journalist who isn’t afraid of trying to find out everything she can about Ethan Chase. Even when Ethan tries to push away, she pushes back, and I like her feisty character. There is a revelation about her that really got to me, and it made everything in the rest of the novel in terms of her character make sense when reflecting about it – I really liked her. The dynamic between Kenzie and Ethan as they journey together is actually quite strong. Completing the journeying trio is Kierran – the Prince who has a much closer tie to Ethan than he realizes at first. Kierran has a stable enough character establishment, probably not as strongly asserted as Ethan or Kenzie, but he has his likable moments. I expect that we may learn a lot more about Kierran’s motives as the series moves forward.
Thank goodness for no love triangles in this book. The romances in this felt so much more naturally developed than in the Iron Fey series, which in the latter it was one of my biggest qualms because it felt that the relationship dynamic forced its hand in places. Here, Ethan’s relationship grows over time, and the connection does progressively develop, even with some rather jarring revelations that come to pass in the plot.
I think the one downside in this novel was that there wasn’t enough scene time with some of the old characters from the Iron Fey series. Sure, the focus on the main characters were interesting enough to me, but I would’ve expected to see a little more of Ash, Puck (because I adore Puck, personally), and Meghan herself. Grimalkin, the cat that accompanied Meghan, Ash, and Puck on their journeys in the Iron Fey series, makes the most frequent appearance here, and is entertaining as always. He’s followed by other familiar characters like Lenansidhe. But I’ll admit for the main three of the previous series – they really aren’t as significant of a role as they were in the previous series or what would probably be expected for the follow-up series. Thus, I can see where people might be disappointed in that to a degree, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book that much.
Overall, I think those who want a story that’s well written, easily digested YA fantasy with decent character focus would likely enjoy this series. I would also certainly recommend it for those who are fans of the Iron Fey series. Julie Kagawa creates a wonderful realm and character narrative in “The Iron Prince” and I loved so much about the story. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book.
Overall score: 4.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin.