Tuesday, November 02, 2021

The Shadow Prince and Escape from Falaise

Durham, David Anthony. The Shadow Prince
September 28th 2021 by Lee & Low
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ash is an orphan in an alternate ancient Egyptian civilization, and has been raised by Yazen to have many useful skills. Because they are not well-to-do, he also has to do things like clean the canal in order to earn a living, and this makes him a target for bullies. Right before his twelfth birthday, when frustrations over his circumstances surface, Yazen shares a secret with him: Ash was born on the same day as the Prince Khufu, and will undergo a series of tests (along with other children) to determine if he is worthy to be the Shadow Prince and accompany and protect Khufu for the rest of his life. The two head off to the palace on a magical royal barge staffed by giant, sentient beetles, and soon are ready for the competition. There are a number of participants who don't survive; Yazen, in the past, mentored one who didn't make it. There are days of testing, and the children must fight demons and undergo tests of skill set by various Egyptian gods. This alternate Egypt has some people who can harness magic, and the power of the sun is used to run much of the technology, hence the "solarpunk" designation of this book. There is a lot of drama within the participant group, with some of the children helping each other, and some working against everyone else for their own gain, and there is intrigue in the royal circles as well. Will Ash's skills be enough to let him survive the testing and spend his life in luxury?
Strengths: Ash is an appealing character who has a realistic balance of determination to succeed and irritation with some of his circumstances. The solarpunk setting works well, with magical, solar powered conveyances and a lot of interesting Egyptian gods. The royal machinations over the heir to the throne, as well as the royal responsibility for the good of the people, are an interesting propellant to the testing. The variety of gods presented, as well as the tests and fighting, will make this a good choice for readers of Black and Clare's Magisterium series. There's a nice twist with the fate of the unsuccessful participants. The best part of this is that even though my soul qualied when I saw that this was 400 pages long, it read quickly AND I was able to remember details without consulting the book. Trust me, this is a huge asset. (My fantasy amnesia is horrible-- I had a student recap Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2011) for me, and I would have sworn I never read the book!)
Weaknesses: This is a lengthy book, even though it read quickly, and I'm not sure what I would have cut, although there was a large cast of characters. Hard core fantasy lovers won't be daunted, but I'd love to see some shorter fantasy books that I could use to entice readers who have shied away from fantasy to pick some of these books up, especially when they have interesting cultural connections.
What I really think: Ancient Egypt is covered in our 6th grade social studies curriculum, but most of the books set during this time period are weirdly formal. This is a breezy, adventure filled, mythology based story that will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan's work and the wide range of multicultural fantasy books that his work has sparked. I will definitely purchase, since these books do circulate well and tend to last for a number of years.

Flanagan, John. Escape from Falaise (Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger #5)
November 2nd 2021 by Philomel Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maddie and Will were captured by Lassigny when they went to retrieve the sniveling Giles who was taken in The Missing Prince. At first, they are thrown into the dungeon and given NO COFFEE TO DRINK, but then are moved to a guarded tower and served proper meals so that they come clean to their captor, who doesn't believe that they are a jongleur and his daughter. When they admit to being spies, Maddie falls into a challenge to joust with one of Lassigny's men, and of course she just wipes the floor with him, shooting arrow after arrow into his helmet to make him loopy without hurting him too much. Lassigny is so angry that he banishes the man. Will and Maddie try to figure out how to escape, and Maddie notices a vaguely familiar figure hanging around; Tomkin, a local ne'er-do-well. It turns out that Tomkin is really someone from their past who comes to save them, and there are further feats of derring-do as the two escape and go on the run. Will they be able to rescue Giles and get him back to his father? What other might the Rangers uncover?
Strengths: This is the 26th book set in the world of the Araluens, and I still love these! I really can't explain the appeal of these, but I will say that this is one of the very rare multibook series where every single book gets read until it is worn out. I've had to replace The Lost Stories twice. There is something about the camaraderie, the characters (who doesn't love Halt getting seasick or Horace pretending to be a Teutlandic knight?), the adventure (setting fire to a stables after making sure the horses are all safe, climbing up a garbage chute), or the sumptuous meals? 
Weaknesses: What's with Maddie's hair on this cover? *Shakes head.* Not sure where she is getting the flat iron in the dungeon.
What I really think: If you haven't read The Ruins of Gorlan, go find a copy and do it right now.

Eleven Ranger's Apprectice Books including The Lost Stories
Five Royal Ranger Books
Eight Brotherband Chronicles (same world, characters intersect with Rangers)


  1. Ancient Egyptian solarpunk? Sign me up! Giant sentient beetles ... um ... *trying not to run away screaming*

  2. Am ashamed to say that I've never read a Ranger's Apprentice book. Have just requested a copy of The Ruins of Gorlan at your suggestion.