The Star Prince
by Susan Grant, fantasy (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52457-0


Too many authors of silly futuristics think that they can slap a long-haired bad Conan the Barbarian rip-off steroid dude with a "macho space name" like Hawk, some slave heroine with a "girly space name" like T'Illeandra on the run to save her virginity, and lots of italicized sentences passed off as "psychic bond" and voila, they get a futuristic romance. Please, go take a space tour by way of the bilge chute please.

This is why I am in awe of Susan Grant. She's one of the few authors who get it. Futuristic romance is a delicate balance of fantasy and romance, not some bad sword-and-sorcery parodies. Her world of the future is well-drawn (nothing spectacular or Asimovian, I admit, but what's there more than suffices), the characters act like comrades and lovers rather than characters from a bad barbarian porno movie, and the space adventures soar to the point that I am drawn into the whole fantasy. It even makes me nostalgic about those Alan Dean Foster space road trip books I used to read.

Loosely connected to The Star King, The Star Prince is about an Earthling, Ian Hamilton, who is about to inherit a galaxy. His stepfather is the hero of The Star King and now some super monarch who wants Ian to inherit the throne one day. Ian, however, has to contend with ministers and heirs-wannabe who claim that his Earth blood is inferior. Now, Ian is undercover in some Super Secret Mission Of Utmost Importance, but he is stranded in backwater space colony called Donovan's Blunder, thanks to a pilot who drank himself to death. Damn, there goes his image as a reliable heir to the throne, unless...

Princess Tee'ah is a royal princess who has stolen away on a spacecraft. She wants to fly, but she can't do that if she's a good princess and soon queen in some faraway planet, and in a moment of weakness, she breaks down and steals a spacecraft. By some lousy luck, she ends up stranded in Donovan's Blunder needing a spacecraft to get out.

See? He has a spacecraft, but no pilot. She's a pilot, but has no spacecraft. Now all they need is to know that each other is royalty, and we can send out the invitation cards, holograms, or whatever it is they use in the future. But they don't tell each other, of course, so they don't even know that they are distant cousins.

They embark on adventures. Whoo-pee! Stars, villains, politics, space whopee, wow. Ian is nice, a really nice guy who knows ten ways to kill a bad guy - just what every Mr Right should be. (Oh shut up.) Tee'ah... well, she has her Reckless Heroine moments, but hey, so did Princess Leia, so that's okay. A girl on the run has the right to do stupid things. Okay, so I like her a lot. Bite me.

At the same time, I must say though there's a curious sense of disconnection I get from Tee'ah and Ian. Yes, they are great characters, but their love thing seems to lack heat or passion. The chemistry is there, but it's a simmering kind rather than one that explodes in my face. The great story and all those external plot things more than make up for the rather going-through-the-motions romance, but this missing sizzle is what keeps this book from getting a keeper status.

Still, what an adventure. It has been really fun traveling on the Grant Galactic Getaway, and I hope the morons at LoveSpell will please, please, please get that gerbil out of their, uh, mouths and get the next Susan Grant book to Singapore in a timely manner. Please.

Rating: 89


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