The Prince of Ill Luck by Susan Dexter (1994)

July 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm (fantasy)

Another book that’s been sitting unread on our shelves for a while, which is a real shame, because it was a creative and fun read.  It’s apparently first of a trilogy called “The Warhorse of Esdragon,” but it does just fine as a stand-alone novel (we haven’t got the other two).

The warhorse in question (Valadan) is not really a new idea – sired by the wind, don’t you know.  The poor Prince Leith, though, with his horrible curse of bad luck, is a wonderful fellow and I like him very much.  The Duke’s daughter Kessaline, on the other hand, is not nice at all, and I’m still not quite willing to believe they’re in love with each other at the end.

At any rate, Leith was shipwrecked, runs across the lost horse, winds up (with the horse) in the duchy of Esdragon, and accomplishes the task Kessaline had set for her suitors (climbing a glass mountain).  This annoys her no end, since she’d intended the task to keep the suitors occupied while she slipped away to find her missing father (who went to look for her missing mother).  On learning that her mother is a witch, Leith insists on accompanying her, in the hope that she’ll be able to remove the curse.

It’s a long scramble across a surprisingly unpopulated landscape, with key events including deliberate food poisoning, getting lost in a mine, slaying a chimera, and having two different parties looking for Kessaline catch up with them when they’re very close to their goal.

I enjoyed the book, except for Kess.  I just can’t work up any sympathy for her, even though there are reasons for her aggravating nature.  But I like Leith and Valadan, and the twisting of various fairy-tale themes in the novel.  And I have to wonder if this series would do better in the current market, with Mercedes Lackey splashing fairy-tale adaptations all over the place, than it did back in the mid-eighties.

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