New friends, a snowstorm, and an impending rift between kingdoms lead an overlooked young prince to find his voice in this third installment of a middle-grade series.
In this latest fantasy novel revolving around the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Concordia, awkward, resentful Prince Jasper in the neighboring realm of Thisley is tired of being treated like a child by his coddling mother and his father, whom the teenager “secretly” feels sees him as “insignificant.” Punishment for Jasper’s thoughtless ridicule of a member of the court, a week working in the stables, gives the 15-year-old prince the beginnings of a new perspective. His efforts earn respect and camaraderie from the stable hands and master. Jasper’s understanding of himself and others evolves further when he accompanies his mother to Concordia, where his older sister, the realm’s queen, is expecting her second child. In snowy Concordia , Jasper’s strength of character gradually emerges with the help of new friends Olive, the “Honorary Princess,” and Toby Tatter, the Concordia king’s page; a life-threatening avalanche; the secret of a missing map; and the prince’s earned self-confidence. If readers expect supernatural happenings or magic in what is essentially the story of misunderstandings among a well-meaning, extended family and those closest to them, they will be disappointed. Even the crises that arise are only mildly suspenseful. The book’s strengths are its well-defined, sympathetic characters; its colorful kingdom settings in olden times; and Jasper’s relatable journey toward self-discovery. Still, those familiar with the previous installments in Mager’s (Under the Summer Sun, 2017, etc.) pleasant series are best served here. The otherwise well-conceived narrative would benefit from fewer explanatory asides to inform new readers about what has occurred before in Concordia. Conversely, the author’s lessons in understanding and empathy, delivered through the experiences of Jasper and virtually all of the main characters, are threaded throughout the story with an admirably smooth touch.
A likable, family-oriented fantasy tale, defined by the warmth of its plot and character-building messages.