Back when I started reading SFF, longer ago than I care to remember, there really weren't that many writers to choose from in that genre represented in my local small-town library. However, Nancy Springer was one of those writers and I remember going through her Book of the Isle series avidly. As a result, I suppose I was borne away by a wave of nostalgia when I saw her name pop up on Netgalley with a new book - apologies to Ms Springer, I didn't realise she was still writing! Although she's subsequently written a number of Arthurian books, which are my absolute Kryptonite to be perfectly honest, the blurb for this sounded promising so I asked and duly received.
The basic premise of The Oddling Prince is that it's set in a vague post-Roman period bit of Scotland where our main character Aric is the only son of a king who (we later discover) fought his way to the throne by killing his older brothers. At the time the story starts, Aric and his father have gone out hunting and his father has been kidnapped by fae and spent a number of years with the Queen of Elfland, only to return exactly as he disappeared so nobody remembers it. He has, however, in that time away been busy doing problematic things with the Queen and produced a son called Albaric who is the spitting image of Aric, just prettier.
One thing I liked about this book was that it dealt with the dubious consent around the whole 'whisked away by the fae and made to fall in love with the Queen by magic' trope, which often gets hand-waved over when it's a guy who's on the receiving end of it. On the other hand, because of the time differential nobody on this side gets to think about the fact the king has been away at all and also it pretty much never gets mentioned again. So, for example, when the king is acting like a jackass towards his new-found son, nobody goes 'hey, maybe being raped by the Queen of Elfland has had an effect on the king!', which felt like a missed opportunity.
Anyway, beyond this, The Oddling Prince is a book where a lot of words are expended to support a fairly meagre plot. Aric and Albaric become besties, there's an ongoing threat to the kingdom from a moustache-twirling duke, while Aric turns out to be the heavily-foreshadowed White King who is going to magically make life better for everyone. All in all, this book felt very much like the books I was reading from this author back in the 1980's and I was a little disappointed by that. Another throwback were the comments about how pretty Albaric was and how people would think he was gay, questioning the relationship between the brothers as a result - though those are coming from the king (exclusively, I think) and he's not the most reliable character throughout, those kind of comments made me feel like I was reading something from the 80's and not in a good way.
I received an ebook copy of this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.