The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So close to 5-stars. If not for two major plot points that really annoyed me near the end it might have made the coveted 5-star list. The Oddling Prince is compelling and has lovely writing; as I would expect from someone as experienced as Nancy Springer. There are some trips along the way in the story; but overall this is a great little book. Perfect to start a middle-grade reader off in the fantasy genre.
There are a few moments in this book that really irritated me. The first is that we start off with a lot happening and no clue what is really going on. It takes about the first 20% of the book to really give context to why on earth some random elf comes and saves a king that he does not answer to (not a spoiler as it happens in the opening chapters).
Then we are led into the typical 'back story' fill-in to catch us up. And it's done as flashback story being told to us. For those not aware this is a terrible way to give major plot points out! Yes even though Tolkien did it a lot; that doesn't mean it's a good literary choice.
The final plot point that annoyed me I can't tell you about... it's a major spoiler. But, if you know my pet peeves in writing, you'll know that anything that's convenient or 'too easy' in plot really bugs me. Unfortunately Springer copes out and nearly ruins the whole book for me. But I got over it and would gladly continue on with the subsequent books in the series after getting to the end. It may also be that Springer chose to 'dumb-down' the story because of the age group it's geared at. I don't agree with this tactic (as kids are way smarter than we give them credit for usually); but it would make sense given the target age group.
Springer has always excelled at great character development and The Oddling Prince is no exception. Our two lead males are so well defined that even though their names are so close to one another (Aric and Albaric) I managed to keep them distinctly apart in my head. Normally I would be annoyed by the similarities in their names (regardless of the reason) but because they are so clearly separate people with distinct personalities and dialogue I did okay.
Not a Romance!
Now you may laugh at my assertion that this is not a romantic story. It's actually quite emotional and has a lot of loyalty and love involved in it; but it's between two brothers and their parents, as opposed to with a romantic partner. I liked that the focus was on family and how it's sometimes difficult to reconcile people's actions with our love for them. This is really the core of what makes this a great book, there is no annoying or messy love interest; just a good clean story with a slightly weird family set-up that any child can likely relate to. Even the best of homes has its flaws and I think there would be a lot of things younger readers would be able to identify with in The Oddling Prince.
While not the best book in the world, The Oddling Prince is a solid read. It's quick for the avid reader and has some cute little moments. It can be a bit Lord of the Rings-ish at times--and there isn't anything mind shattering here for plot or characters--but it's perfect for any little boy or girl to read and get a flavour of fantasy. It would also be great read-aloud by a child or adult to a child. Springer has delivered exactly what I hope for from this level of story.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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