A prince and princess learn the value of love and compassion.
In his fantasy novel, Jannetta (Ella-Maria Goes to Heaven, 2013, etc.) introduces Melkio and Elliza, heirs to the kingdoms of South and North Cordiva. Although the two kingdoms are rivals—Melkio’s father kills Elliza’s in the book’s opening pages—the two royals form an immediate bond when they meet as children and later connect as young adults. Melkio, tired of being a disappointment to his father, Esham, runs away and encounters Elliza, who poses as his servant when they find themselves guests of a treacherous noble who tries to usurp Esham’s crown. With Elliza’s help, Melkio defeats the rebellion and learns to forgive his father, and the young couple marry. The story’s focus then shifts to Elliza’s sister Abby, suddenly struck by an unexplained illness and bitter about the limitations it brings to her life. She gradually finds happiness through helping others, including Pastole, son of the traitorous noble and a prisoner in her castle. Elliza and Melkio join Abby and Pastole in a quest for a supernatural cure for Abby’s illness, traveling to an underworld guarded by magical creatures and proving their worthiness through a series of sacrifices. Fans of swordfights and castles will find plenty of both in the tale, along with sweeping pronouncements like “In that singular moment meant for revenge, I instead found clarity.” The writing is bumpy, with both clever turns of phrase (“your generosity will be like waves crashing on the beach”), including well-executed, punlike chapter titles, and clumsy modern lines delivered by quasi-medieval characters (“before I go in there with my guys”). The book is part of the mainstream fantasy tradition, with its world made up of royalty, peasants, and rural communities, and the outcome of clashes between good and evil is predictable. The supernatural element is somewhat incongruous, as it appears only in brief references in the work’s first half, but effectively plays its role in the tale’s resolution.
A classical, if uneven, fantasy story in which characters embrace their best selves, virtue triumphs, and selfless love overcomes all barriers.