In this third novel of Judith Tarr’s AVARYAN RISING trilogy (which probably could stand alone), it’s been 15 years since the events of the previous book, The Lady of Han-Gilen. Mirain and Elian now have a teenage son named Saraven who is heir to the throne of his country. One day Saraven saves the life of Hirel, the son of the king of a neighboring kingdom. At first they have nothing in common and even despise each other, but after enduring a series of accidental adventures which include being captured and escaping a few times, the boys eventually overcome their prejudices and become friends. When they make several unsuccessful attempts to stop their fathers from destroying each others’ kingdoms, they end up resorting to a bizarre solution that shocks everybody (including me). As young leaders, they make a sacrifice to save their people, but the path they choose turns out to be even more dangerous than they expected.
A Fall of Princes has a couple of likeable protagonists, a unique plot, and a totally unexpected plot twist. Like The Hall of the Mountain King (the first book in the trilogy) and unlike The Lady of Han-Gilen (the second book), it also has several touching moments and produces some thought-provoking scenarios. I don’t want to give too many specifics, for fear of spoiling the plot twist, but one thing A Fall of Princes does well is to explore the nature of prejudice. According to psychologists, the fastest and most effective way to reduce prejudice is to spend time (preferably working together) with the people you have prejudiced attitudes about. In A Fall of Princes, Tarr forces her protagonists to work together and shows us how they come to understand and appreciate their differences.
Unfortunately (and like the previous novel), the plot moves at a glacial pace. Characters are given intense focus as they think, talk, or otherwise interact with each other. There are many moments where, for example, one character touches another, that take minutes to describe. We see a lot of riding, bathing, eating, and braiding of hair. Also lots of slapping, glaring, scowling, shivering, and fist clenching. The characters spend hours waffling over their feelings for each other. Do they hate each other? Do they love each other? Are they enemies, brothers, or lovers? There’s so much talking and SO MUCH DRAMA! Repetitive drama. The same kind of repetitive drama as in the last book. Oh, I already said that.
Again, Jonathan Davis gives a wonderful performance in Audible Studio’s version of A Fall of Princes, but he can’t save it from being another mostly boring angst-fest. A Fall of Princes is over 18 hours long on audio, but only about 5 of those hours are actually entertaining.