It is only a few months ago since I read, and loved, The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen by PJ Fox but I feel like I have been waiting forever for the final two books in this amazing tetralogy, The Black Prince: Part One and The Black Prince: Part Two. I got a tantalising taster when I read the first seven chapters a month or so ago and it made me all the more desperate to see where Fox would take her two main protagonists, Isla and Tristan. Yet, I quickly realised that although Isla and Tristan are still the main protagonists, in these final two books, Fox gives equal, if not more narrative to other characters who are as worthy of the page space as Isla and Tristan.
The Black Prince Part One and Two follows on from Isla’s marriage, and sacrifice, to Tristan, as battles are ensuing across the lands to try and overthrow the King, led by Maeve, Asher’s mother. When Tristan acknowledges that he is Asher’s father, and Isla adopts Asher as her son, he becomes a pawn in a vicious battle between the warring sides. As Hart becomes an integral part of Tristan’s fighting force, he tries to battle his own demons as he finds love and great success in his own right. However, there are enemies hidden in all manner of places and some closer than they think, and there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns throughout the two books.
What I loved about this tetralogy is that Fox packs in so much information and so many characters, who could easily be main protagonists in their own right, yet I was never lost as to what was happening. Fox doesn’t skimp on the descriptive parts of the narrative, but neither does she overload you; the ratio for action and description is perfect. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews of Fox’s works, her talent for creating flawed, yet brilliant characters is amazing. She perfectly balances her main characters and surrounds them with a few extreme characters, such as Rowena and Rudolph to create a exquisite narrative that gives so much, yet doesn’t confuse the reader. The narrative is clever enough to keep the reader guessing as to who is friend or foe, but is clear enough to at least arouse suspicion in various parties.
As a reader, you can easily place yourself in the environment that Fox outlines. Her ability to paint a picture with words is truly a wonder to behold, whether it be the grandeur of Caer Addanc or the gross camping site of the warring troops. Fox uses her historical knowledge to give her descriptions authenticity and to give the reader a true indication of the medieval landscape.
However, it is her characters that make these books as fantastic as they are. Despite Tristan’s dark nature and demonic rituals, he is a very alluring character and, as a woman who loves the idea of a chivalrous man looking after the woman he loves fiercely, I absolutely fell for Tristan. His all-powerful persona allows him stand tall above and beyond the other characters in the book and a reader could forgive him anything. (The claws would be an issue though, as I’ve mentioned before! No man should have nails longer than mine!) I loved Isla too, and she is such a formidable character. She is a strong woman who has embraced her life with Tristan and as a mother to Asher and is not often afraid to speak her mind in defence of those that she loves. Her flaws are those that most people can relate to; she worries that she isn’t enough for Tristan, and that she is somehow to blame for her family’s nasty traits. However, the way Fox brings Tristan and Isla together and entwines them to become one entity leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that these two characters were made for each other. The reader can also see that her concerns about her family are completely unfounded and they are just nasty pieces of work. The fact that Isla feels these things, however, makes her a particularly agreeable character who the reader champions throughout the novels.
Hart comes into his own in these two books. Whilst I loved his character in the first two books, it is in the two The Black Prince books where Hart is given a leading role. He is another perfect example of a character that is quite gross in many ways, yet the reader is left more than willing to ignore his baser features to appreciate what a wonderful character he is. Partnering him with Callas initially, they are a formidable duo who work together with a fantastic synchronicity. We are then introduced to Arvid, a tribesman with a bluntness that insults and amuses in equal measure, who becomes Hart’s right hand man. He is a loyal friend and provides much amusement to those who he isn’t insulting. Hart’s relationship with Lissa is beautifully depicted by Fox as both characters have their own issues but ultimately are drawn together and like Isla and Tristan, they rely totally on what their respective partners can give them, despite being able to hold their own in whatever situation presents itself to them.
Asher is also more prominent in these books, in fact, plays a very important part in the plot of these two novels. Again, he is wonderfully developed by Fox, in terms of his expectations, dreams and the fact that he is only still a young boy who idolises those close to him but still can’t help but wonder how he has found himself in the position he is in. He emulates Tristan to some extent but his youthful worries and uncertainties give Asher more depth as a character and I found myself mentally shouting at him to watch his back and hoping he didn’t get swayed by his insecurities.
I could quite easily discuss each character at length and tell you how well written they are but I fear I would give far too much away and I would like to strongly encourage people to read these books rather than feel they didn’t need to because I’ve divulged too much here. However, I must mention Rowena, Isla’s sister, who has gone from being a vain little princess character in book one to a downright evil, vindictive, witch in these two books. She has been so well developed over the course of the four books that she never ceases to surprise with some of her actions and responses. Ultimately she keeps testing Isla’s loyalty to her to the limit and while Isla never seems to quite sever ties with her, I often wished she would! Rowena’s character is multi-functional in these books and her purpose is ever changing, keeping the reader amused and appalled in equal measure.
I can honestly say that this has been one of the best series of books I have ever read. In a very short period of time, PJ Fox has become one of my favourite writers and I fully intend to read her back catalogue, as well as her regular updates to her Wattpad book, Book of Shadows. I have been telling everyone who listens that they should read this series and will continue to do so, as I think that this series captures the essence of the traditional classic novel, but bypasses the restrictions of what was deemed appropriate to give the novels a modernity that enhances the classic style. I have nothing at all bad to say about this series other than to say that I’m gutted that the experience is over. In the Afterword to The Black Prince:Part 2, Fox poses some questions about what happens next and she says she is leaving it for the reader to decide. That’s not to say that Fox doesn’t tie the story off well. She does, but there is definitely scope for more. I would be the first to read any follow up to Isla and Tristan’s story and given their predilections, I bet a whole host of stories could be written based on them. Also, to anyone in the film industry, these books would make an epic film. It would never be as good as the books, but then again, they never are!