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The Immortal Prince
Jennifer Fallon
Tor, 512 pages

The Immortal Prince
Jennifer Fallon
Jennifer Fallon was born in Carlton (a suburb of Melbourne, Australia). She lived in and around Canberra for about 8 years and has lived in the Northern Territory since 1980 in Alice Springs. She has worked as a youth worker, a store detective, shop assistant, an advertising sales rep and executive secretary, among other things. She is currently the National Sales Manager for Australia and is based in Melbourne temporarily.

Jennifer Fallon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Medalon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Tammy Moore

When a convicted murderer survives the hangman's noose, it is inconvenient, but when the same murderer claims to be the Immortal Prince Cayal -- one of the god-like Tide Lords -- it has wider repercussions. Not that anyone believes he is who he says he is. The Tide-Lords are legends, stories for children and the credulous. But something does not have to be the truth to be politically inconvenient.

Under Glaeban law, the insane cannot be executed, and this man is obviously insane.

The man is a Caelish tradesman and under their laws cannot be twice-punished for one crime. Should the Caelum ambassador hear of this, it would be the excuse he had been looking for to cause an incident between their nations.

Then there were the Crasii, the animalistic slave race who believed they were created to serve the Tide-Lords. If they heard -- and believed -- one of the ancestral masters was held prisoner, it would be impossible to predict what they'd do.

The Duchess Arkady Desan is the closest to an expert on the Tide-Lords that exists, so it falls to her to discredit this Pretender's claims. Only Cayal has an answer for every question she raises and, with nothing else to do, he recounts what he claims is the true history of the Tide-Lords.

Arkady is caught between her growing sympathy for the imprisoned Cayal, her duties as Duchess and the pressure put on her by her childhood friend, Declan Hawkes -- the King's Spymaster. There are other forces at work too -- ones that neither a Doctor or a Duchess know about: the Cabal, with their secret, hoarded Lore about the Tide-Lords; the Crasii whose servility was bred in the bone but who dream of freedom and the Tide-Lords themselves. For not all the Tide-Lords have grown weary of life and the games of Immortality and the Tide is Turning.

One of Jennifer Fallon's greatest strengths as a writer is her worldbuilding. The worlds created for her novels blend the familiar and the alien with a deft hand, conviction and detail convincing the reader not just of the physicality of the world the characters move through, but of its history and politics. There is a genuine sense of scale to the The Immortal Prince, a breadth and scale that suggests a broader world beyond that we have seen in the story.

I think that in the hands of a writer less adept at sketching in the outlines of a world, not just a location, The Immortal Prince would have struggled as a novel. Much of the first half of the book is seen through Arkady's eyes and her world is constrained by her duties and her status as a Duchess. She moves from the stark stone of one prison to the more luxurious confines of another -- although her incarceration in both is a willing one. It could have seemed limited, or claustrophobic. The scale of Fallon's narrative here comes from the brewing tensions in the Duke's court -- a maze of conflicting loyalties and half-seen intentions that have only started to come into focus by the end of the novel -- and the era-spanning history that Cayal recounts to Arkady. An anti-Scheherazade, trying to win his death instead of his life.

At the end of the novel, the limited scope of the first half is turned on its head, the world is spread out as the stage for the second novel and many of the various powers and agencies have revealed themselves, to the reader, if not to the other characters. All but Cayal, for while he presented himself as well-meaning to Arkady, he is surely an unreliable narrator in those sections.

The Immortal Prince is an addictive introduction to Jennifer Fallon's new series. I cannot wait for the second book in the series to find out what happens to all the different characters.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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