The Shadow Prince
by Jan Zimlich, historical/fantasy (2002)
LoveSpell (Heartspell), $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52485-6


Ah, romantic fantasy. I still love this genre, really. On one hand, there's some cheesy but truly great ones, like William Goldman's The Princess Bride and the movie Ladyhawke. Then we have the campy but still fun fantasy stuff, like Xena: Warrior Princess. Finally we have the bottom of the barrel stuff like the movie Kull The Conqueror and The Scorpion King.

Jan Zimlich's The Shadow Prince is just slightly higher than the bottom of the barrel. Maybe it's the nature of the romance genre that has authors believing that abusing the phrases "innocence" and "virgin" are all they need to create a barbarian utopia. Whatever it is, this "Virgin In The Hero's Big House" story is another peaen to child-like purity (with big breasts, naturally). I, for one, for it bewildering.

Set in the 600th century Media empire, the story begins with our pure pure pure puke heroine Lorienne left for dead by the evil evil evil woman leader of her tribe as a perverse form of tribute to the savage Busae warrior clan. The Busae dude, who is an evil evil evil (x200) dude and also the half-brother of our hero, spies Lorienne. He also spies his mysterious warlock brother, Adrik, spying on Lorienne, and realizes that this woman has captured Adrik's attention. He decides to offer her to Adrik.

So Lorienne wakes up in Adrik's mysterious castle and learns that he is a tormented man who has been raised from kiddiehood by a demon. Adrik claims to be cursed, ie one day he will step into some dark dimension to take the demon's place or something. In the meantime, she lays there, helpless, sunburned, near death, starving, and yet entrancing Adrik with her purity, lovely "sun-raw skin", her aristocratic and sculptured face, long flaxen hair, and as he rubs cream all over her skin (it's medicinal cream, so don't get too excited), he gets all horny all over.

Jeez. This must be some bizarre form of necrophilia if treating burned, malnourished, dirty, and near-dead women have our man bursting out of his pants like that.

Anyway, so there they are. As Lorienne protests weakly that no man will own her and other tired rot, he will soothe her, pamper her, and they marry, ooh. Sexual healing takes place, and everything is so swimmingly marvelous in our Barbaria Fantasia, until - oh no! Evil Busae half-bro kidnaps Lorienne! What to do? What to do!

This story is bursting to the brim with clunky, unintentionally humorous dialogues and bad eugenics (poor Busae half-bro - he carries out his duty as leader to his people, while Adrik hides and whines in his tower, and still everyone calls Adrik the better man), and even more hilarious scenes of "drama". I'm sure Adrik's weeping after he has bruised Lorienne pretty badly in the first boinking is supposed to be some touching scene, but the phrase "brought to her first joining" cracks me up. What, is Lorienne some Legoland thing now?

Words like destiny, soul, and lovemaking scenes where purple goo gush forth from every word from this author's florid pen all add up to a prime comedy of a read. I'm evil, I know, but after a long, gushy tampon and insurance commercial of a love scene that ends with a loud, throaty exclamation, "May all our mornings begin in such a fashion!", I laugh so hard until I fear for my life. In this book, sex isn't just sex, it's a life-changing, earth-shattering experience that have both our main characters gushing forth new Tao yammerings as they arched their glowing, luminous perfect torsos together. If only all our boinkings are so illuminating. We don't have to eat and drink and sit on the crapper anymore, because baybee, we can survive on each other's breathings alone, and when we're thirsty, we can... er, never mind.

Is this romantic? Sure, in a very overwrought "Love shakes the earth and makes me realize that I love her so much that I can never never NEVER survive without her - NOOOOO!" way even as giant morning glories bursts into bloom in the background. But me, I have a confession: when the author describes the teeth marks and bruises all over Lorienne's body after the first love scene, while Adrik weeps in fear of his beastie nature, I actually felt a rather illicit thrill of excitement. Sad, I know, but I wish that Adrik has kept up that Savage Demon Lover thing instead of turning into Lorienne's New Age Destiny Yamma Bamama Ken Doll. Oh well, maybe fans of old-style barbarians and skimpily-clad damsels in distress fantasy romances will appreciate this one better than me.

Rating: 73


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