A MIRROR FOR PRINCES by Tom de Haan

A MIRROR FOR PRINCES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First-novelist de Haan's capably handled historical fiction recounts one monarch's court experiences in a quasi-medieval realm. Prince Reyhnard is the third son of a reigning feudal tyrant, Basal of Brychmachrye. Third in line, and therefore unnecessary to the king's dynastic ambitions, Reyhnard grows into a bookish mold--a habit that serves him well when he later retires into exile to relate his story via memoir. We find out, among other things, that Reyhnard's father rose to power through the triple pillars of medieval management strategy, marriage, and murder. Into the picture arrives Beulah, a sensuous court climber who becomes the king's mistress, soon married off to Reyhnard. Through a succession of deaths, partly accidental and partly by poison, the crown falls into Reyhnard's reluctant hands. Something of a Richard II figure, Reyhnard is constitutionally unsuited for political hatchet work and, after settling accounts, absents himself from power and chooses a simple life in exile--the moral here for would-be princes. There's more of course: an incestuous affair between Reyhnard and his sister, regal summer excursions, layers of court intrigue, conspiracies, the usual line-up of cowering minions and hand-wringing schemers. In the main, though, de Haan's strength rests with a tart style and an eye for the violent details of feudal life, preventing a lapse into run-of-the-mill fantasy. All the outer embroidery of royalist historical fiction is here, but without a central, generating figure that the genre requires.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf