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The dragon demands flesh!

By Maromar, author of Mystic Nan

Aug 8, 2017: If you seek to gorge yourself upon a tale of grim woes and bloody trials, Baron Blackwell’s The Undying Prince may be for you. It surges across a less trodden path than its contemporaries, melding fantasy elements with xianxia according to the author’s synopsis. Less evident, though nonetheless present, are dashes of psychological horror and Lit-RPG.

If I were to describe it in one word, I’d have to go with “complex”. One should take into consideration all the fair and foul traits such a label implies.

The world pulls along both Eastern and Western mythical aspects, placing qilins upon the same lands roamed by dire wolves. By the story’s start, sorcerers have already fouled up the ecosystem to the point that stepping too far away from civilization is a very good way to end up as the meal of some unfathomable monstrosity, or worse, their incubator. Characters living in this world reflect such a reality in their harshness and survival oriented dispositions.

Speaking of characters, the important cast seems rather small for its setting, though everyone has distinct voices and backgrounds that we can draw bits of worldbuilding from, little by little. At times, it does seem like certain people only serve as mouthpieces to get information that the natives should already know downriver to the readers, but that’s a sin kept to a tolerable minimum. If something were to prompt one to abandon ship, it would be the thickness of the plot.

A myriad of conflicts start and end with Erik, something permissible within the specific spoiler-filled stations of said plot, but it still leaves one yearning for a lengthier look beyond the young prince’s fears and inner demons.

Especially true for the genres upon which The Undying Prince skirts, the point where the main character stops interacting with the world, and simply spins it on a globe is where interest dies. The focus isn’t harsh enough to reach that point, not for determined readers, but it leans close at times. Alleviating this, are supporting characters whose brokenness matches the environment perfectly. Watching them do what little they can to keep the shadows of reality at bay provides an interesting clash with the overarching atmosphere. As bad as things are, the people persevere, it is in that perseverance, that much of the personality development lies. I firmly believe that the author is fully aware of this, setting up and concluding miniature arcs that convincingly drop flecks of hope into the starless night. The elevated, almost poetic diction lends itself well to this kind of storytelling.

Nigh completely digestible grammar, a unique style, and distinct use of tonal manipulation paves the way for a book-worthy text over all. Very few times, have I felt the need to stop and re-read a section for mechanical purposes. You’d be reading a very different review were this not the case. A great depth of attention and willful immersion is required to traverse the narrative and arrive with a clear picture, however. This is largely caused by a predisposition towards shifts in perspective and narrative device with little warning and less immediate sense beyond the influence of a certain hungry guest in the confines of Erik’s soul.

Though they may seem illogical to some readers, they are most likely a feature, not a bug. Given time, the disjointed pieces come together and one forges an understanding of who Erik truly is. This of course, comes at the price of a more intuitive sense of pace, but those who enjoy the battle at the center of the mind are in for what seems to be a great payoff over the horizon.

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