Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Sin Eater’s Daughter. You can read my review of this novel [here].
The Sleeping Prince was written by Melinda Salisbury and first published in 2016. The novel forms the second part of The Sin Eater’s Daughter series and follows Lief’s younger sister as she struggles to survive in an increasingly dangerous world. The novel follows The Sin Eater’s Daughter (2015) and, at the time of writing, the final instalment of the series has yet to be announced.
The Sleeping Prince has awoken from his five hundred year curse and wants his revenge. Sweeping through Lormere with his army of golems, he quickly seizes control of the capital and orders all of its citizens to bow before him. Those that do not risk a fate worse than death. Yet victory over Lormere is not enough for the Prince. He desires to be the supreme ruler of everything.
Since Lief’s disappearance, his sister Errin has been forced to live in poverty. In order to provide for her sick mother, she uses her skills as apothecary to make illegal potions to sell on the black market. Her best customer is the mysterious Silas – a man who always hides his face beneath a hood – who offers her good money for a seemingly random selection of potions. Sometimes they are cures, other times they are poisons.
As the Sleeping Prince sets his sights on Tregellan and his golems begin to stalk the woods, Errin knows that she will soon need to flee her home but her mother proves to be impossible to move. It soon becomes clear to her that her only hope for survival lies with Silas, but Silas has plans and secrets of his own. How can Errin possibly convince him to help her and will she ever be able to fully trust him if she does?
If you followed this blog back in early 2015, you may remember that I was quite taken by The Sin Eater’s Daughter. While it struck me as the kind of novel that would divide fantasy fans, I felt that it was a breath of fresh air. It turned its back on many high fantasy clichés in order to present a compelling character study. Although Twylla began to story in a position of power, she was really bound by faith and duty to a role that she’d grown to loathe. Most of the novel was devoted to her finding her courage and freedom at a great emotional cost.
Comparatively, the plot of The Sleeping Prince is much simpler than this. Although it shares its setting with The Sin Eater’s Daughter, its approach to the world is very different. Although her story is far from over, Twylla has stepped out of the spotlight this time around. Instead the reader is introduced to Errin, and the Sleeping Prince – a character who was believed to be mythological for much of the prequel – is now very real and very dangerous.
The novel really does add depth to what was revealed in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Aurek, the Sleeping Prince, is now an undeniable threat. He’s cruel, vengeful and determined to make the whole world kneel to him. He’s far more dangerous than the Queen was in the previous story. While she was evil, she was also limited in her scope. Although Aurek rarely appears in the story, his presence is always felt in the climate of fear that shrouds Tregellan. The stories that Errin hears about him are pretty horrifying and when she finally meets him, she quickly discovers that he’s even more frightening in person.
As the story this time is largely set outside of Lormere’s boundaries, I found it interesting to see the differences between the two kingdoms. While the people of Lormere were religious and superstitious, Tregellan culture has far deeper groundings in science. Instead of sin eating, this time we learn about the protagonist’s history as an apothecary and the precise science that this involves.
With the awakening of the Sleeping Prince, the people of Tregellan are forced to accept that not everything has a scientific explanation and this also adds an fresh angle to the story. As the story progresses, Errin sees that her level headed neighbours are starting to hang holly over their doors and wear protective amulets. This adds tension to the story as she is forced to make more effort to conceal her mother, wary that the now superstitious townsfolk could see her illness as a sign of possession.
With the exception of the prologue, the whole story is told in first person from Errin’s perspective. Gone is the decadent backdrop of Lormere Castle and instead the reader is set down in Almwyk – a town on the Tregellan border which is home to all manner of unsavoury characters. Immediately, it becomes clear that she’s a very different character to Twylla.
While Twylla was meek and passive (sometimes infuriatingly so), Errin knows exactly what she needs to do to survive. Although she is just a teenager, she has been forced into the position of chief breadwinner for her family. Lief is missing and her mother has been stricken with an illness that causes her to fluctuate between catatonia and murderous rage. It’s up to Errin to make ends meet by any means possible, all the while keeping her mother hidden from people that would hurt her or take her away. While Twylla earned my sympathy, Errin really stole my heart. She was such a kind and determined girl that I bonded with her immediately and became really invested in her plight.
I also fell in love with Silas – more so than I did for either of the love interests in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. While romance took a backseat in this novel, it felt a lot more real. The chemistry between Silas and Errin was far more convincing. While some of Silas’s actions in the story did initially make me angry (how could anyone do anything to hurt Errin – she’s wonderful!), the reasons behind these do eventually make sense and so I can understand in hindsight why he behaved the way that he did.
I only really had a few minor gripes with the story and they’re mostly personal. The book was really gripping and contained some shocking twists but it also unfortunately suffered from middle novel syndrome. Most of the story was simply escalation. When Errin finally leaves Almwyk, the novel ramps up the tension until she finally manages to find what she’s looking for. After she completes her quest, the novel reached its climax rather quickly and broke off in a rather devastating cliff-hanger. Yeah, you might recall that I’m not a fan of cliff-hangers. I like novels to wrap up nicely, even if they’re the midpoint of the series. I always feel cheated if a story doesn’t give me a proper ending.
There was also a lack of development for the main characters from The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Lief and Merek barely featured in this novel, which felt strange given their earlier importance. While Twylla did get a little more development, I was still left feeling a little annoyed. Without spoiling too much, I couldn’t understand why the Sin Eater had hidden so much of her history from her. Surely it would have been much easier for her mother to be honest with her from the beginning?
Anyhow, I think I’ve said enough. Despite my gripes, I really did enjoy this novel and can’t wait to find out how the series will end. It was fast-paced and introduced a fantastic new protagonist. This is still definitely a series that I’d recommend to any fantasy fan.
The Sleeping Prince can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk