Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Wein
Available now from Open Road Media (orig. published in 1993)
This is a little bit of a Retro Review for me, although not entirely. I just about burst with glee when I saw that THE WINTER PRINCE and A COALITION OF LIONS were back in print. Two reasons for this: 1) I needed a copy of THE WINTER PRINCE for my own and 2) Now I can spread the love more easily! If the last three books come back into print that will just be the icing on the cake. (Warning: do not read the fourth book until you have the fifth book handy.)
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THE WINTER PRINCE is written like a letter from Medraut to his aunt and mother, Morgause. She's a cruel woman with a terrible hold on her sons, but at the same time almost understandable as a woman trying to grasp all the power a woman can have. Medraut perhaps loves and hates her even more than her loves and hates Lleu.
There isn't much of a plot to THE WINTER PRINCE. It's a book about a relationship, and two people coming to terms with who they are. It's wonderfully written, Wein's prose lending the book a fittingly seductive and sharp beauty. It's a little messy, just like it's protagonist, and swiftly covers a great deal of time. It's one of those books that sticks in your mind long after you read it, and comes back to you immediately once you read the first sentence again.
It's just everything I want out of a book on the Matter of Britain. And believe me, I'm an Arthurian geek and I want a lot. It has questions of honor and what makes a good ruler, family and romance, and it's all bound up in insane episodes of cruelty, incest, and violence. It holds its own with some of the greats of Arthurian legend, like Malory and Marie de France and Rosemary Sutcliff.
Let's all give a big hand to Open Road for reprinting this under appreciated classic. They've done it quite nicely, with a biography of Wein in the back and illustrations prefacing each chapter. The illustrations by the author have a nicely simple, old-fashioned look to them.