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Review: Prince of Shadows – R.J. Vickers

Prince of Shadows - R.J. Vickers

Genre: Epic Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay, Lesbian

Reviewer: HL

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About The Book

Baylore is the world’s last safe haven for magic. And the Whitish are determined to destroy it at all costs.

Twenty years ago, the enchanted Wandering Woods saved Baylore from the Whitish when they picked up their roots and formed a living wall around the city.

Now, Prince Daymin is the only one who can keep the forest wall in place.

As the Whitish prepare once more to attack, the alliance between Baylore and the people of the forest grows strained. If the forest abandons Baylore, it will mean the end of the city and the wholesale slaughter of the magic races. But the people of the forest have no allegiance to the city.

Time is running out. When Daymin’s mother embarks on a dangerous quest to forge an alliance that might save Baylore, Daymin is forced to take the throne he never wanted. Though he is untested and lacking in confidence, he must lead his people into battle—or watch as the last free city of magic falls to the Whitish.

Prince of Shadows is the start of the next epic saga in the world of Itrea and the Kinship Thrones. The series is set twenty years after the Forbidden Queen series, and features a few characters from the previous series, though it stands alone.

The Review

The world’s last safe haven for magic, the nation of Baylore, is under threat of destruction. Young Prince Daymin, a reluctant leader, is the only one who can keep Baylore’s last line of defence – the enchanted forest that forms a living wall around the city – safe from the invading Whitish.

Prince of Shadows, the first book in the Empire of Ash series by R. J. Vickers, is a solid and engaging fantasy novel. It’s the sequel series to the Forbidden Queen series, but knowledge of that series isn’t required to enjoy Prince of Shadows as a novel in its own right. 

Prince of Shadows follows both Daymin, a young and inexperienced prince of Baylore who finds himself thrust into a position of leadership and responsibility he never wanted, and his mother, Queen Kalleah, who sets out on her own dangerous journey to forge an alliance to save her country. 

While I was incredibly fond of Daymin (and looking forward to see how he grows and develops as the series progresses), Queen Kalleah was the absolute stand-out character for me – brave, regal, strong-willed, and a true leader of her people in the face of insurmountable conflicts and odds. Not only is she faced with the impending Whitish invasion of her land, but Baylore is suffering under heightened food prices and an ever-widening wealth gap, causing tensions within her court and throughout the land she has led for the past 20 years.

She is in a difficult position and there are no quick fixes for the problems everyone expects her to solve. Now that I’ve come to know and love Kalleah in Prince of Shadows – which is ostensibly Daymin’s origin story, not Kalleah’s – I am eager to go back and read the preceding series that focuses on Kalleah’s early journey and rise to power. 

Prince of Shadows is well-paced and well-written, with a standout cast of interesting characters and complex interpersonal relationships. It’s a fantastic entry point to the world R. J. Vickers has created, and one that I can’t wait to revisit – either twenty years prior with Kalleah’s Forbidden Queen series, or going forward with the next book in the Empire of Ash series.

The Reviewer

H. L. is a Jewish Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.

She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.

She has had two speculative short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.  

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