Review: The Golden Prince

The Golden Prince by Alice Ivinya is the third ARC I received from the upcoming Once Upon a Prince multi-author series. While it isn't a full gender reversal fairy tale retelling like The Crownless Prince, it is a unique take on the story of "Rapunzel" that focuses heavily on the prince, making it clear that the author understood the assignment. There are some fun nods to Disney's Tangled as well as many original fantasy elements that convey a strong sense of worldbuilding. The book delves into fae mythology as well as the legend of Baba Yaga with a few subtle nods to "The Snow Queen." The romance is tantalizingly chaotic with lots of "Will they? Won't they?" moments that dance on the fine line between lovers and enemies. Overall, it is a solid addition to the Once Upon a Prince series that works well as a standalone fantasy novel.

When Prince Thomas inherits the legendary Sword of Spring, the only thing that can ward off the deadly power of Winter, he has no idea how much peril is about to come with it. His quest to end the famine plaguing his kingdom leads him to the home of Baba Yaga, which has already been hit by the malicious Winter warriors. After some investigating, he learns that the fate of his kingdom is tied to a girl who must be crowned Queen to save everyone. Like a true fairy tale prince, Thomas assumes he will have no trouble charming this girl and that their union will end the plague on his people. Little does he know that Maisie has no desire to be charmed and instead decides to use him for her own purposes. She is a street-smart rogue who is kept in a tower by a greedy witch until she finds her first opportunity to escape. As Thomas and Maisie embark on a dangerous game of cat and mouse, a new threat looms over his kingdom that catches them both unaware.

For a series that focuses on princes, this book does a good job of fleshing out the charming and heroic prince archetype that is so commonplace in fairy tales. Thomas is a brave warrior wielding a magic sword who is full of charm and wit. The "bad boy" thief personality that Disney used for Flynn Rider in their version of "Rapunzel" is transferred to the female lead of this story. Although Maisie has magic hair and follows the "Lost Princess" trope, her personality is closer to Flynn Rider than that of Rapunzel. She sees everyone as a pawn to be manipulated and refuses to believe that she is capable of love. Thomas's innocence and pampered upbringing allow him to believe in her in spite of everything she does to him, and there are some real whoppers! Eventually, his faith gives her the strength to give love a chance and help to save his kingdom.

The lore of this world is captivating and well-developed. The curse on Thomas's kingdom is caused by an ongoing war between the Winter and Spring courts that is bigger and more widespread than his little romantic tiff with Maisie. The elements of the sword and the lost princess of the Spring Court add a sense of scale to a story that could have easily been written off as a simple romance. The side characters were also a lot of fun. Thomas's knight, Greggory, is an excellent comedic character who has a lot of dry banter with the prince, adding humor to a fairly dark situation. The witches in the story have fleshed-out motivations for their actions and are believable in their roles, which all help to move the book along. All in all, it is a fast-paced and action-packed adventure with a whirlwind romance between two unlikely heroes.

This unique twist on the story of "Rapunzel" captivates readers with its focus on the prince and his journey. Thomas and Maisie embark on a perilous game of cat and mouse, unaware of the looming threat to their kingdom. The book masterfully fleshes out the charming prince archetype, presenting Thomas as a heroic warrior with charm and wit. In contrast, Maisie embodies the charming rogue personality, challenging Thomas's beliefs and ultimately discovering the power of love. The compelling lore surrounding the ongoing war between the Winter and Spring courts adds depth to the story, complemented by well-developed side characters and their motivations. Overall, The Golden Prince by Alice Ivinya is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that seamlessly combines romance and fantastical elements, making it a solid addition to the Once Upon a Prince series and a standalone fantasy novel worth delving into.


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