Jennifer Dunne, World Gates, vol. 2: Shadow Prince (Cerridwen Press, 2005)
After I read Not Quite Camelot, Jennifer Dunne’s fun initial entry in the World Gates series, for some strange reason it took me four years to get round to reading book two. Even stranger, it’s now taken me ten months to get round to writing the review of book two (I finished the book, according to my spreadsheet, on 1May2012, and I am writing this paragraph on 18Mar2013). I have no idea why, as I enjoyed it a great deal; in fact, I think it improves upon the original, and I’m hoping, even eight years on, that Miz Dunne has a book three up her sleeve she just hasn’t sprung on us yet; she’s done some really good world-building in these two books, and when the second one ends, while it does feel like an ending (and a more final one than we got from Not Quite Camelot), as with any good world-building she’s left all kinds of openings in which one can ask, “what happens after ‘happily ever after’?”
NOTE: the next paragraph necessarily contains major spoilers for Not Quite Camelot. If you haven’t read it yet and are planning to, skip the plot synopsis.
Set ten years after the events of Not Quite Camelot, Shadow Prince opens with Angie Blanchard now a young artist living on her own in the middle of nowhere, relying on her agent to sell her paintings—all of which are fantasy-themed works concerning Nord d’Rae, which she has become convinced after years of therapy was all a dream she had in the back of that station wagon. (And Angie is still not at all comfortable with the modern world.) And thus it is that when Angie is yanked back into the parallel universe—where Nord d’Rae is now a blasted, destroyed land, and that destruction is blamed on Angie’s old flame Prince Reynart, now a rogue assassin—she figures she’s dreaming again. And, of course, she runs into Reynart, with both of them believing the other abandoned them a decade before…but they have no choice but to work together before the actual agent of Nord d’Rae’s destruction (and we all know who that is if we’ve read Not Quite Camelot, yes?) manages to free the now-blocked Nord d’Rae gate and unleash that destruction upon the rest of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, this is another fantasy-romance novel just like the first book in the series. But unlike the rest of the Dunne novels I’ve read, this one puts the bulk of the work on the first genre rather than the second; Angie and Reynart are all about the fighting outside the sheets and the grappling between them, but there’s more attention paid to what’s going on out in the rest of the world. Specifically, this is a basic quest narrative, rag-tag party and all, and Dunne spends a good deal more time than I would have expected making sure the other mambers of said party are just as interesting and individual as characters as are Angie and Reynart. Good stuff indeed, a satisfying entry in what I hope will eventually be a continuing series. *** ½