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656 pages, Hardcover
First published August 3, 2021
“You are what you want to be… And no matter what, I love you and will always be there for you.”
“Mother says we cannot blame a whole people for the decisions of their leaders.”
“Perhaps… But leaders who do not reflect the will of their people do not remain in power. Take my word in this.”
“Let others determine your worth, and you’ve already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves.”
"We are in the wilds, far from home, sister. We will have a reckoning, you and I, but for now, you will obey."
"The first day, fight. Every day, fight. When you lose, fight. When you win, fight."
"Saving the world is the kind of reputation that can stick to a family. Folks I've never met give me gifts and let me get away with just about anything. But sometimes I catch them staring, like they're expecting me to do something amazing.
And when I don't, I can smell their disappointment."
[Review by James's assistant Elisabeth]
The Desert Prince is an epic tale centred around two teenagers. Darin Bales is the son of the legendary Arlen Bales, a great war hero, and the world expects similar greatness from him—though he isn’t confident he can live up to it. Olive Paper is a princess and heir of the Hollow, brought up to be a lady despite being intersex. Both Darin and Olive journey to discover who they are and who they want to be, despite expectations from those around them. While facing these internal struggles they also discover a danger lurking at the edge of their homes: the demons that once plagued their lands, thought to be defeated, are not all gone…
This book does a great job of setting up the trilogy that is to come, introducing some fantastic characters and an intriguing conflict. It is, however, definitely a YA series—full of characters gushing over each other and obsessing about who kissed who. That’s not to say it doesn’t also have some great battle sequences, internal cultural conflicts, and political intrigue but the angst and romance was a little too much for me.
The narrative jumps between Darin and Olive’s perspectives, providing two unique viewpoints on the world. They’re both well written characters, but there was an imbalance between the two narratives, with way more chapters following Olive than there were Darin. This meant that I got to know Olive’s personality and story really well, and became quite invested in her plotlines. But on the flip side, it meant that I lost interest in Darin really quickly. His storyline was interesting, it was just hard to get invested. His chapters felt like an interruption to the main story instead of an equal part. He also felt neglected when it came to the book’s ending. The last few chapters weren’t as satisfying as they could have been, which was partly because of underdeveloped and unresolved plotlines—which I think is connected to the structural issues in the book. It was still enjoyable to read, but I felt like it could have been so much better if the POVs were more balanced.
I also found the vast array of characters a little confusing. There were a lot of names and a lot of people who were somehow related, and it became difficult to keep track. I have to admit I am new to The Demon Cycle series which may have contributed to this muddling. While The Desert Prince does a decent job of reintroducing the world and its history for newbies like me, there were some things that I felt assumed prior knowledge—especially surrounding the significance of certain characters and locations. This didn’t hinder the overall story however, and I believe there’ll be a family tree glossary in the final print of the book which should help (my copy was an ARC).
Despite some issues, The Desert Prince was still a decent read and if you’re into YA fantasy I think you’ll enjoy it!