The Prince of Knaves is a fantastically-written, fast paced classic adventure story interwoven with a touching, heartfelt (and sometimes explicitly described) homosexual romance. Such would be the shortest way to describe this book. But for the casual reader, this description suffices. If you enjoy fun, fast adventure stories, and you don’t mind the homosexual romance, don’t miss this book.
The prose is not poetic or flowery. It does not exhibit any try-hard mannerisms that so many new authors try to employ. It flows. There is a rhythm to the words that changes along with the pacing, and what a joy it is to read. Part of that comes form Alflor’s ability to judge how much the reader needs to know. I have previously seen this in past stories of his. There is never too much description, but there is always enough to paint a clear and vivid picture. It is fair to say that (if you like the subject matter) you will never be bored with this book. The pace is quick and the story never drags. There are 406 pages, but I didn’t once stop to check how many pages I read. If you want a well-written furry book, this is a prime example.
The world Alflor creates is an intriguing blend of Medieval Europe, Scandinavia and a touch of furry. There is no fantasy there. If we lived in a world of anthropomorphic animals, I would even label this historical fiction. Concerning the furry aspect, this is such a book where the fact that the characters are upright-walking, talking animals is paid absolutely no mind. They just are. As such, the narrative never feels like it is trying to convince the reader of the furriness of these characters. One may occasionally wag a tail or fold their ears, but they act very human for the most part. (There *is* one scene which uses the animal traits of the characters in a very clever way, but I will not spoil it.)
The story is one of Prince Natier. He begins the book living a life of privilege at the royal palace in Llyra. Prince Natier is painted as fairly lazy and hedonistic, but he isn’t always like this. When the sun goes down, he takes on the persona of Rivard and sneaks out of the palace. This side of the fox is much less self-absorbed and much friendlier. As the book’s back cover says, “he goes to brothels, helps a local gang of thieves pull off robberies, and gets drunk off his tail on mead.” But this double lifestyle is interrupted when one of the servants makes an attempt on the prince’s life. Natier flees the palace and hides out at the local shipyard only to learn that he has been framed for another attempted murder, that of King Rasdil.
Pursued by authorities, Rivard must discover what truly happened at the palace and find his missing father. If he can’t get Rasdil to testify on his behalf, he is doomed to live a life on the lam.
There is much more to this book, including a second part that shifts things into a nautical adventure mode akin to Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. There are pirates, smugglers and plenty of battles on the high seas.
The characters Alflor creates are uncannily real. They have their merits and flaws. Not one is perfect. And they all have a reason behind what they do. This drives plot in a very realistic manner. The characters never do things just because the author needs to get the story from point A to point B. You can see them grow and mature through their experiences.
I honestly cannot praise this book enough for the sheer amount of material it blends together. You want romance? You got it. Adventure? Absolutely. Mystery, heist? Coming right up. And let’s not forget the humor. It is also a fascinating character study of the main protagonist. He is unsure at the start, caught between living a life of self-absorbance at the palace and a life of adventure on the streets. By the end of the book, Rivard will have do decide just who he really is.
The negative points to this book are very small. Mostly typos. I noticed about 15. They aren’t very jarring, especially since the book is so smoothly-written, but I wish this book had been proofread better. There are also several mysteries which are never explained. I will hold off on calling that a criticism, however, until the series is complete.
If you spent your childhood reading books like Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, and so on, this book will absolutely and without doubt be a welcome addition to your collection. It is fast, exciting and it never forgets to be fun. I patiently await Mr. Aalto’s next novel.