The Castaway Prince, by Isabelle Adler
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ostracized by his family for his sexual identity, Prince Stephan is forced to flee his homeland before his older brother ascends the throne.
Stephan has been drawn to feminine things for as long as he can remember, so when the dire need for secrecy arises, he seizes the chance to don the perfect disguise. With the help of his loyal servant, Stephan picks his way through hostile territory, hiding his identity by posing as a woman. His only hope for asylum lies with the man who had been his friend and lover three years ago. But when that man also happens to be the crown prince of a rival country, things are a bit more complicated.
With war looming on the horizon, the danger of discovery grows by the moment. With all odds stacked against him, will Stephan find a safe place where he can be his true self, or is he doomed to remain a castaway?
Friends to Lovers
I will happily read about men who challenge gender roles and norms, and if those men also happen to be princes who cross-dress, I won’t look twice before picking up that book. I got a lot of what I wanted out of this novella, but as a story that challenges gender roles, it also felt like The Castaway Prince occasionally missed the mark.
Although this novella is listed as a fantasy, it honestly felt like this was set in a ye-olde-days Europe with some altered country names. I don’t need a fantasy or sci-fi novella to spend too much time on world-building, but it really is at a minimum here. Because of that, the cultural attitudes on display are pretty much lifted straight from our world, homophobia and subtle sexism included.
“You’re a lady, remember?” Warren said, quickly coming to his aid, shouldering the heavy travel bags. “One who’s too pretty to be so bad-tempered.”
That’s on page 1, and variations of this sentiment show up throughout. There’s such a focus on “ladylike” behavior, and being “proper,” that I thought that maybe the story had turned into a regency while I wasn’t paying attention. To be honest, I would have preferred for this to have been framed as a regency, rather than a fantasy that utilizes none of the opportunities of the genre.
But genre nit-picking aside, I enjoyed watching Stephan become increasingly comfortable with his feminine side, and the anticipation of how Arlen (the rival prince) will receive Stephan after so many years apart pulled me through the story. The resolution was not exactly a surprise, but it was nicely played. After everything, I wanted Stephan to find someone who accepted all of him, and there’s a satisfying HFN ending.
A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves travelling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
You can purchase The Castaway Prince from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.