Review of LOST PRINCE by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (see her website)
Borderlands Press, December 2007
King Alonzo of Spain longs to tear every strain of heresy and devil-worship from his nation. He burns so many, yet the Inquisition always finds more. When his wife is cursed and dies in labor, giving birth to a cursed child, he seeks to gain legitimacy for his bastard son instead. Unfortunately for Don Rolon, legitimate son of Alonzo and heir to the throne, his father's contempt is only one of the challenges he faces. His half-brother will do anything to destroy him, his mistress is a greedy fool, and his new wife doesn't understand the danger she is in in priest-ridden Spain. Worst of all, though, is the curse--the curse that transforms Don Rolon into a wolf during the full moon.
Although his servants and allies do what they can to hide his curse, the Inquisition is curious. If they could destroy the heir to the throne, that would prove their power, put them in position to rule the nation. And without his father's support, Don Rolon is in a highly vulnerable position. One by one, the Inquisition cuts down his allies, leaving him alone--with his curse.
Author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Yarbro) creates a compelling picture of Spain under the Inquisition. Although the actual characters are fictitious (and no werewolf heir is reported in standard histories), she's clearly done her research and the power of the Inquisition over both ordinary people and even over the nobles of Spain and Portugal rings true. Yarbro's observations about the utility of torture in creating confessions carrys a warning that is as valid today as it was in the days of the Inquisition.
In her efforts to create a dark and dangerous world, Yarbro failed to do much to make us care about the characters. Don Rolon is not especially likable and, while we are intrigued by the political and religious maneuvering around him, it's hard to really care what happens to him. Even his allies care more about him because he's the legitimate heir than because of who he is as a person. His unconcern for what he's done in wolf mode--he apparently kills one of his companions in the opening scenes of the book and never really feels remorse--makes it that much harder to care whether the Inquisition gets him or not.
Yarbro's writing kept me involved enough in the story to want to learn what happens next, And the ending did come as a surprise, at least to me. Unfortunately, the editing sometimes made LOST PRINCE difficult to read. The novel appears to have been passed through a character recognition system and typos, extra periods, hyphens in the middle of words not at a line-break, and missing paragraph breaks are so common they detract from the quality of Yarbro's writing.
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