Thereís always a bit of trepidation when an author you like, author of six well-loved books that take place in a single world, branches off in new directions. Will the world he or she creates be equal to the one youíre familiar with? Will the authorís skills inexplicably wane, leaving you to find yourself immersed in a morass of mediocrity, destined to spend the next three years mired in the muck as the author finishes the new series?
Thankfully, Jennifer Fallon doesnít have that problem, or at least she doesnít yet. The first book of ďThe Tide Lords,Ē The Immortal Prince, ranks right up there with most of her other work and is an excellent introduction to the series. She manages to set up the world in the process of weaving an interesting plot, rather than dropping huge infodumps about how the world works before getting back to the action. Instead, we get to explore the world as it lives and breathes, and I love that in a new series.
Cayal just wants to die. Heís gone so far as to kill just so that the government of Glaeba will sentence him to have his head chopped off. When things donít work out quite as planned and heís hanged instead, things go from bad to worse. Arkady, the wife of the Duke of Glaeba, is tasked with getting to the bottom of Cayalís story that the reason he didnít die by hanging is because heís immortal. But she finds herself getting increasingly drawn to this man, a man with stories of times long past, and of great cataclysms that rent the world and reshaped it. Cayal claims to be the Immortal Prince, one of the mythological Tide Lords, immortal beings who can harness the tide of magic that ebbs and flows in the world. Most of them are amoral at best, and whenever there power reaches its peak, it usually spells doom for a good part of the world. But Cayal is falling in love himself, and the Tide is coming inÖ
Fallon has created a world, and more importantly a history, thatís entertaining to read about and even more interesting when you discover it piecemeal. The beauty of science fiction and fantasy is having an entire world revealed to you without any of the books reading like a lecture. Thereís a lot of history for Fallon to portray in The Immortal Prince, but she does so in an interesting fashion that highlights her characters. Yes, much of the history is told to Arkady by Cayal, but in doing so his own character comes through. Whole chapters consist of him telling her bits of his history, and itís never boring because itís coated in his personality, his grim humor and joking that she doesnít believe his story. The map at the beginning of the book is huge, giving us an inkling of what weíre in for: a world-spanning epic of immortals against the little guys, with some potential immortal help.
Fallonís characterization skills have certainly not abandoned her. Every character in the book is three-dimensional, or at least has enough dimensions to make them interesting even in passing. Cayal is wonderfully done, bored with eternal life, just wanting to end it before the Tide comes in. Arkady I wanted to slap at times, mainly for her refusal to believe what her eyes have just told her. I can understand not wanting to believe, but she goes a bit too far at times. Perhaps thatís Fallonís point, but it does get a bit irritating after a while. Those are the two main characters, but a couple of side storylines with characters who are also intriguing; it will be interesting to see what she does with them in the next two books.
The prose in this book is excellent as well, but... I know there are romances developing in the her, but sometimes she dives a bit too far into the romance-genre prose style that rubs me the wrong way. I donít mind romance in my books - Iím a romantic at heart. But the flowery language and the description of how the lovers look at each other as they try to fight their hidden passion gets under my skin in a big way. There are plenty of romances in previous Fallon books, and she didnít fall into that prose style, but it looks like thatís the style she chose for this series. Iíd better get used to it.
On the other hand, I loved the many surprises that turn up. I often closed the book and just said, ďWow!Ē when a twist hit me. A couple of them are obvious, but others just floored me. One in particular near the end of the novel completely changes the readerís perception of the events that have already occurred. This is not a bad thing - in hindsight itís eminently logical, but I would think only a great guesser would figure it out beforehand.
One final positive about The Immortal Prince is the ending. Fallon eases the book to a close without leaving the reader in complete suspense until the next book comes out. Yes, itís the first of a series, and yes, the plot is left hanging, but no characters are in danger. Arkady is not left dangling from a cliff. Instead, there is a growing uneasiness as the Tide Lordsí power is clearly increasing, and you know that means bad things for the world.
Iím greatly looking forward to the sequel of The Immortal Prince, as I do most Fallon books. Thankfully, she rarely disappoints me (though when she does, itís a doozy). This book gets what looks like an excellent series off to a notable start. If you like fantasy, get it as soon as you can.