The Prince of Secrets – A.J. Lancaster

the prince of secrets

The first book of the series (which will be a quartet, all of it published in 2019), The Lord of Stariel, was one of my best reads of 2018 – a Netgalley discovery. I pounced to buy the paperbook (so beautiful) and was more than ready to buy the sequel as soon as out in the world! I was thus very happy to receive the ARC of The Prince of Secrets from the author (whom I thank!) and be able to review the book as soon as possible.

I could just say that if you liked the first book, you’re sure to like this one as much, maybe even more.

I could also just say that it was, as the first book, a perfect read for me. It’s difficult to express how magical it is to find a book which delights oneself without any restriction. I’ve gained, along my years of reviewing, the reputation of being extremely demanding, fastidious to the point of quibbling. I’m not! I just know what I like and…what I dislike.

The story begins just after the end of The Lord of Stariel in a very linear way. The narration, still at the third person, smoothly alternate between Hetta’s and Wyn’s points of view. A lot of exciting things happen in this second book, with new fascinating characters, but without forgetting the old ones.

(A small digression about secondary characters: there all are exceptionally good, with very distinct personalities, never stereotyped – which is a positive sign of literary quality and writing personality. I wouldn’t mind, at all, to read about them in some plentiful spin-off!)

Stariel, the land, gains some real personality and plays an important part during the story, which is as clever as fascinating. The relationship between Hetta and Win evolves sweetly and, most importantly, in character: witty, touching, credible and sensual without being pornographic.
(You may need to know that my expectations about the new, at the time, New Adult genre had been sadly disappointed when I discovered that what was called « erotic » was just plain « soft porn » in my point of view, and that the said sex scenes were predominant to the detriment of the story and often of any characters’ development).

The atmosphere is still as much heartwarming and deliciously domestic (I love big houses dynamics, as in Downtown Abbey series or in Jane Austen’s or Victoria Clayton’s books) as in the first book, with some exciting and mysterious trips…

The author has reinvented faes in a very personal, inventive and yet rather classic way, with plenty of appealing details. And a refreshing absence of complex!

To finish with (as I won’t tell you anything about the story except that it’s riveting, very satisfying and opening toward an already much awaited sequel), I’d like to say a word about a discreet but very significant quality, about the treatment of characters and situations. The author sometimes cleverly uses some reverse stereotypes, especially to express an enlightened feminism. For instance if we could easily imagine the story with a man instead of Hetta and a woman in place of Wyn, the substitution isn’t grossly made. Hetta is a very feminine strong heroine and Wyn a very masculine kind and passionate character.
In a genre where clichés and lazy stereotypes are so frequently used and worn out without any imagination or personal efforts, this kind of mastery makes all the difference!