A Princess of the Chameln: A thoughtful and magical coming of age story

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A Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder fantasy book reviewsA Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder

In A Princess of the Chameln, Cherry Wilder tells the story of Aidris Am Firn, whose parents, the king and queen of the Firn and one half of the rulership of the Chameln, are attacked in front of her. As her last living act, Aidris’s mother gives her a magical stone that will aid her in the future, and commands her not to let anyone else see it. Not long after, another assassination is attempted on her life and the life of her cousin, Sharn Am Zor, the prince who is destined to rule at Aidris’s side when they are grown. Aidris is sent to live with regent after regent, constantly on the run for her life, while she tries to seek out who poses a threat to her rule.

In some ways A Princess of the Chameln felt episodic rather than following one clearly-defined course of action. Aidris moves from location to location, learning new skills and hiding her identity, until she is finally able to announce her queenship when her closest friend and protector, Count Bajan, arrives to support her claim to the throne. One of my favorite parts of the book was Aidris’s training as a warrior, part of the Kedran, a group of female soldiers meant to protect a house. It seemed like one of the happiest and most carefree parts of her life, living among other women with no suspicion that she is royal.

Through all her adventures, Aidris is guided by a strange woman she sees in the stone her mother gave her. The identity of this woman is not revealed until late in the book; it is one of the overarching mysteries that ties all of Aidris’s adventures and struggles together, along with the identity of her great enemy.

One thing that made this book a little challenging to read was in understanding the complicated family lineage of all of the different characters. Aidris was related to quite a few people in the book, but they all had their own specific kingdom and family allegiances. However, I liked that Wilder gave those allegiances some nuance; very few characters were either “good” or “bad,” but had many different competing motivations playing out to influence their actions.

Finally, the prose, while slow and meditative at times, was lovely. Reading A Princess of the Chameln was a pleasure and I was surprised not to have heard of Wilder and this series (out of print, but recently re-released by Open Road Distribution in both Kindle and paperback versions) before.

Published in 1984. When her royal parents are killed during a coup, Princess Aidris Am Firn of the Chameln flees for her life. Constantly on the run from unseen enemies of the crown, she poses as a commoner and joins a cadre of women warriors so she can fight those who assassinated her parents and continue to hunt her. While cultivating allies, Aidris learns that two pretenders have ascended to the dual thrones of Chameln. Having discovered their true queen is still alive, counselors from Chameln rally to her side and convince the queen that the time has come for her to reclaim her birthright. But before she can do this, she must discover who her enemy really is, lest the unknown assassins strike her down too.

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KATE LECHLER, on our staff from May 2014 to January 2017, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her personal blog is The Rediscovered Country and she tweets @katelechler.

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