by Justin Somper
When Anders dies, his younger brother, Jared, who is only sixteen, must take his place as Prince of All Archenfield. Most of the plot is focused on catching Anders’s assassin, and Jared befriends Asta, the physician’s niece and apprentice, as they attempt to crack the case together. Jared doesn’t know where to begin, inexperienced as he is, and he is unsure which members of his council he can trust.
Despite his constant self-doubt as well as other characters pointing out his youth, I found most of the other characters to be much more naive than Jared. The Twelve, along with the heir to the throne, make up Jared’s council, and they are heads of various jobs including the palace cook, the guard, the beekeeper, and the executioner. They swallowed false leads with surprising gusto and seemed perfectly content to sit by as people were murdered around them. Most of them were barely fleshed out, and there were minor character inconsistencies. The beekeeper, for instance, is introduced as using few words, speaking only when she has something important to say, but later, another character rebukes her by saying that the beekeeper likes listening to her own voice too much. There were a few characters, such as Jared’s younger brother, that fell by the wayside and half the time I forgot they existed.
Jared also had some character flaws. He was inconsistent about his feelings toward Axel, the head of the guard, sometimes thinking about how close they were and feeling comfortable in his presence and at other times sure that Axel was going to kill him. His behavior, as well as Asta’s, can only be described as bumbling at times. His mistakes would work out half the time, as the plot required, and it got a bit tiresome when his rudimentary tactics brought out convenient answers.
That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. There were some really nice passages, and the plot was, for the most part, fairly engaging. There were a couple scenes that I think would be better to be left out - they were a little too revealing. I think the next one in the series might be better because a lot of this book was set-up.
Overall, this is a 3. There were solid parts but also a lot of parts that made me want to give up on the story and the characters. It was like a cinnamon raisin bagel. I love cinnamon and bagels are pretty great (though not as exciting as doughnuts), and this is a genre I enjoy, but some of the plot pieces and characters need to be picked out like raisins or they add an unwanted squish to the taste.