So this review is LONG overdue, my sincere apologies to you all, especially to the author who was kind enough to send me a digital advance copy for review! As you know I had been unwell the last couple of weeks but I am back now and ready to review this beautiful book!
The Last Prince, by EG Radcliff is a beautiful, harrowing and rich story of love, family, life and trauma. Labelled as the sequel to the phenomenal The Hidden King, its story is actually set prior to the first book thus acting more as a prequel that follows Ninian’s early life as a child and exploring how he came to meet Aed.
While the contents make this book a prequel, I would personally recommend reading The Hidden King first for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it will make this book much more emotional for you because you already know the outcome of certain events. Secondly, the familiarity with the characters means you will be able to fully appreciate the message and core themes of this story without any confusion. Lastly, it makes the experience of this story just generally much richer.
This review may contain spoilers for The Hidden King #1 (Click for my review)(aka Book 1 in the Coming Of Aed series.)
Synopsis: Ninian’s childhood was torn apart – he is no stranger to tragedy and pain, but as he tries to live in the harsh life of The Maze he soon realises his only choice is to fight. Forced into a life he never anticipated, Ninian is lonely and isolated, until he meets a crimson-eyed stranger who reminds him what it is like to love and be loved.
CW/TW: Trauma/PTSD, Abuse, References to Sexual Assault/Rape, Emotional Abuse/Manipulation, Alcohol, Violence, Gore.
The Last Prince, by EG Radcliff is another beautiful and captivating instalment in this epic YA series. If you read my review of The Hidden King then you will know that I loved the richness of the world and the characters relationships that infused this book – and I get to love it even more here! The Last Prince is a magnification of these brilliant characters and has even richer descriptions of The Maze than before, Radcliff is excellent at writing about the bonds between characters and this book shows this wonderfully.
The Last Prince is a quick, intense and emotional read. Radcliff’s writing is incredibly immersive and the settings jump of the page – the level of detail is eye catching and paints a vivid image that draws you in and captivates you. This book has an incredible balance between beautiful and natural descriptions and imagery as well as harsh and gut wrenching depictions of the rough and brutal life in the maze. The second instalment is as well written as the first with even more focus on the setting – Racliff is excellent at crafting fascinating and realistic scenery that evokes empathy and deepens our connection with the characters and the story.
The Hidden King is told from the perspective of Aed, in this book however we have a change in narrative. Due to taking place before book 1, this time we experience the story from Ninian’s perspective. This was refreshing, interesting and effective as we follow Ninian as he grows from a child to a young adult, due to this perspective we can easily connect with Ninian’s character and feel for him and the tragedies he has faced. This series is full of emotional depth and the narration is perfect for the story it tells. The narration can be quite hard-hitting at times, particularly Ninian’s traumatic episodes, which at one point bought a tear to my eye, showing the true depth of the harsh life of the Maze.
On the whole the narrative and writing is brilliant, effective, evocative and impactful allowing us to easily connect with the characters, follow the story and picture the settings.
The story/plot is incredibly unique, it is a story of tragedy, heartache, family, love and humanity infused with Gaelic/Celtic myth and magic. Old Royal blood runs through Ninian’s veins, throughout his childhood he was taught to fight the Fae, which we see a lot of traditional methods which I thoroughly appreciated, and protect those who live in the Maze but unfortunate events leave him alone in the world and out on the streets. I really enjoyed the prequel storyline of this book and it’s focus on Ninian, personal relationships and healing.
There are a few strands of the story that interconnect over the course of the book. Firstly, Ninian’s trauma and life on the streets. Secondly, Ninian and Aed’s relationship and the healing that comes along with it. Third is the Celtic/Gaelic magic and existence the Fae. Lastly, the ingrained violence of The Maze and its gangs. Each of these elements are well explored and developed and combine perfectly to create a raw, original story that looks deeply into its characters. Thus, this story is heavily character driven and is perfect for anyone looking for a fantasy story that revolves around deep personal development.
The story, at times, is very heart-breaking and hard-hitting, particularly because Ninian (and Aed) are still children for the majority of the book, and what they, particularly Ninian, have gone through is horrifying – the most heart-breaking part was Ninian’s internalised shame and guilt despite being the victim. This was portrayed clearly and well, making it all the more harsh and gut-wrenching. This book is one where you want to jump in and take the characters into your arms and let them know they’ll be okay and that they are strong enough.
While I love the Fae and all the magic it brings, this book is more peppered with magic rather than having it be the sole focus of the story. If you have read Book 1 then you are already aware of Aed’s situation, which we get more glimpses of in this book in an intriguing way. But, we also see more of the history and natural uses of magic for those who have it and see how the gangs try to utilise it – it was interesting to see the magic so naturally incorporated, and it was done wonderfully, as well as the negatives attitudes surrounding it.
Ninian and Aed meeting each other and healing together was a strong part of the story that played out excellently. It was heart-breaking and sweet to watch the two accept each other and help each other heal both physically and emotionally simply through mutual understanding, love and trust. The relationships built between the characters, particularly those who go on to become found family, is a true strength of these books- their love, their conversations and their bond is so pure and well crafted that you cannot help but fall in love with them.
This book deals with a lot of trauma and being forced into battles and fights against your will, focusing on the treatment of Ninian, who is only a child, and each element truly portrays the extreme cruelty of the conditions of the Maze (made even worse if you have read Book 1 and are aware of what goes on outside). This is a beautifully written book that delves deep into its characters and their emotions making it a heart-breaking but thought-provoking read.
The last quarter of the book has a time jump to match it up with the Hidden King, which I really appreciated because we got to see adult Ninian’s perspective of his relationship with Aed, and his found family including his ‘trash child’ (this will amuse you in context I promise!). The idea of found family and what makes a true family is at the heart of this book and it is mesmerising to watch when a true family comes together because it is something so pure in the midst of the cruelty of The Maze.
Again, the characters are the true highlight of this book, their development over the course of the story is brilliant, they are diverse (with an m/m couple featured), multi-dimensional, and real. Every character has strong characterisation that makes you feel for them, whether it is empathy or hatred, and Radcliff plays with preconceptions making you fall in love with the characters over and over again.
Ahh overall, there is A LOT to this book despite being relatively short in length and I could go on and on about it but it is far to easy to spoil due to the emotional nature. I hope my rambly review portrayed just how much I loved this book and the journey of emotional growth and trauma it takes you on. I adored the sprinkle of Celtic/Gaelic magic, the fictional world and the fantasy woven into the words – it was beautiful and rich. The characters and their relationships were brilliantly crafted, realistic and memorable and I loved every minute of it. The only reason this book missed out on the full 5 stars was because I wanted more magic – that’s just personal preference for my fantasy reads though and this book is truly amazing with the sprinkle of magic we get which is interwoven into this worlds rich history.
I cannot wait to read the rest of this series – it is fantastic and I definitely recommend it to those who love fantasy that places its characters at its center!
*I received and Advance Review ECopy of this book from the author (thank you) in exchange for an honest review*