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WesternSFA
The Lost Prince
by Edward Lazellari
Tor, 2013, $27.99, 527pp
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
This profoundly well-written fantasy is the sequel to Awakenings, reviewed in the October/November 2011 edition of ConNotations.

A dark alternative to the Superman mythos, Awakenings and The Lost Prince posit what might happen if Kal-el had ended up as a ward of the state instead of the son of the wise and caring Kents . Here’s the premise: When the realm of Aandor was under attack by Farrenheil, magic was used to send the infant prince across dimensions to Earth, and Guardians were sent along to protect and raise the Prince until he could return. But… the spell was cast in desperation, and the effects of our world’s ubiquitous Cold Iron went unreckoned. The guardians arrived with memories wiped, the prince displaced from their protection. The adults eventually overcame their John Doe status well enough to forge lives for themselves, but separated from each other and their sole purpose. Callum MacDonnell, dimly recalling his raison d’etre, became a police officer and has a wife, Catherine, whom he loves dearly. (Unfortunately, his original self loved a lady of Aandor, so he has a problem.) Seth Raincrest is Aandor’s chaotic-good – weeeell, maybe chaotic-neutral agent, to complement Cal ’s unbending lawful-good nature. As every gamer knows, there are places the virtuous simply cannot go, things they cannot do; and sometimes those are the rat-holes that need plumbing, the dark deeds that need doing. So there has to be someone like Seth along for the adventure. Lelani is the Aandorian agent sent to re-awaken the memories of her compatriots.

What some of the Guardians have made of themselves is deliciously surprising, and I’m not going to give away spoilers. But I will mention Balzac Cruz, who relishes teaching Classics and playing the Fool. When his memories come cascading back, he swings into action. But whether the fault was already present in his nature and his stars, or if his layered nurture warped something, he goes somewhat off course….

And portals, be they magical or engineered by Skynet, impartially serve opposing sides, don’t they?

The Farrenheils have sent their own agents to locate and eliminate the royal brat, and they managed to preserve their memories intact. Too bad for them that all the iron, steel, and communications networks of our society scramble their neurons, and to some extent their spells.

Magic and mechanics interfere with each other, generating system failure, madness, and utter chaos. The guardians lost their memories but adapted to Earth, while the hunters whose memories are intact are having their sanity rubbed raw and frayed by the dissonance between their world and ours. Both groups now race to find the prince who does not know who, or what, he is. But after thirteen years of sometimes-brutal foster care, he’s on the run from the law, and he trusts nobody.

The characterizations and descriptions are intensely vivid, the juxtaposition of fantasy and realism is imaginative, the plotting taut. The dark turn at the end of Chapter 42 alone is worth every penny of the price of this book. And this one comes to a satisfying conclusion, although there is a promise of more to follow. Heartily recommended. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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