The Wandering Prince
The Wandering Prince is the final book in the trilogy of fantasy romances featuring Jack Straw and Sebastian Beau, who have risked life and limb to rescue princes, track down mysterious artefacts and battle legendary beasts while bickering their way into love in the world of the 13 Kingdoms. These stories are entertaining and light-hearted with plenty of humour, snark and steam, the characters are well-drawn and engaging, and the world building is deftly done; I enjoyed the previous two instalments – and would recommend reading those first – and was quick to nab a copy of this one for review. It rounds out the trilogy nicely – and the author has said that while this is the final book to feature Jack and Sebastian, she may well write more stories set in this world – although there are a few things in the last part that felt a little contrived or overly convenient, hence my slightly lower grade this time around.
Note: There are spoilers for the previous book in this review.
The Wandering Prince picks up precisely where The Stubborn Accomplice left off, with Sebastian’s mother making a surprise visit to the quiet village of Riverbrook, where Sebastian and Jack have made their home. It’s been clear since the first book that Sebastian was hiding something about himself, but it isn’t until Kara, the Queen of Padora turns up on their doorstep looking for her son that the penny finally drops for Jack. He’s always known Sebastian can be … economical with the truth, to say the least, but finding out the man he’s fallen for is an actual, honest-to-god prince is a real shock. Hurt, angry and confused, Jack doesn’t wait around for Sebastian to try to feed him yet more guff; he makes his escape as quickly as he can and heads over to his mother’s house to try to think and maybe lick his wounds. Just a little bit.
Sebastian’s mother has brought bad news. His father, the King of Padora, is gravely ill and may even be dying. The finest physicians and healers can find no cause for his condition and can do nothing to help him, and Kara has come to bring Sebastian home. He’s the second son, so is not the heir – perhaps fortunately for him and everyone in Padora! – but should be with his family and at his father’s side at this time. It’s not an unreasonable request, but Sebastian is temporarily preoccupied with the fact that Jack has disappeared and with worry about how he’s going to react to finding out the truth. ‘Not well’ is probably the best Sebastian can hope for.
Sebastian is prepared for Jack’s anger, but not for his insistence that Sebastian being a prince changes everything between them or his statement that while he does still love Sebastian – he doesn’t like him very much right now. Still, it’s better than being told Jack never wants to see him again, and Sebastian can work with that. He tells Jack about his father and that he’s going home to Pandora – if Jack will go with him. Jack is temporarily stunned – he hates travelling by ship and Sebastian knows that – and he doesn’t like palaces (Sebastian knows that as well), so he says no. But Sebastian refuses to go without him; they’re at an impasse, until Sebastian’s mother intervenes and asks Jack to relent and Jack, feeling guilty that he might prevent a father from seeing his son for possibly the last time, agrees to go.
Well, of course there’s no such thing as ‘plain sailing’ for Jack and Sebastian, but after defeating a legendary sea creature intent on devouring their ship and everyone on it, they arrive in Padora to the news that the King’s health is still precarious. Sebastian’s older brother Troy thinks they need to request the services of Magdalena Rohan, widely regarded as the greatest healer in all of the kingdoms – but there’s a snag. Nobody knows where she is. Sebastian perks up – finding and retrieving things is his and Jack’s speciality, and if anyone can track Magdalena down and bring her to Padora, they can.
Like its predecessors, The Wandering Prince is an enjoyable adventure yarn, with plenty of action, a fair bit of deadly peril and lots of banter in between. Jack and Sebastian’s relationship is put to the test here, but I was pleased that the rift between them wasn’t allowed to go on for too long, and also that Jack doesn’t let Sebastian off the hook too easily. Both of them have enough have self-awareness to recognise the part their own insecurities have played in bringing them to this point – the lack of self-worth Jack hides so very well behind his sharp-tongue, Sebastian’s worry that Jack wouldn’t have wanted to be with him if he knew the truth – and Sebastian has grown enough as a character throughout their time together to accept that he deserves Jack’s censure. Jack has to admit to himself that he’s in it for the long haul with Sebastian despite his deception, and even when things between them are at their rockiest, their love for each other is never in question.
I enjoyed meeting Sebastian’s family, especially his uptight brother Troy, whose situation as the heir makes it even easier to understand Sebastian’s desire for freedom and adventure. I was pleased he finally got to have an adventure of his own (the greased pig competition!), and to see a better understanding developing between him and Sebastian.
Jack and Sebastian are likeable and strongly characterised, and their opposites-attract romance is nicely done. Sebastian’s good-natured reactions to Jack’s grumpy snark are always fun, and I’ve enjoyed the way their romance has developed so that by now, they’ve let their guards down and are more open with each other about how they feel. In fact, up until around the three-quarters mark, I liked everything about this book, but then things run out of steam; a number of plot points are wrapped up very conveniently or just handwaved away – eh, magic – and what I thought was going to be a climactic battle between Jack and Sebastian and a powerful mythical creature goes in a completely different direction and is, well, very anti-climactic
Those things took a bit of the shine off for me, but I nonetheless enjoyed The Wandering Price, because what’s good about it is very good – the romance, the warmth, the humour, the adventure – and I would certainly recommend both it, and the 13 Kingdoms series to anyone in the market for a light-hearted fantasy romance.
|Review Date:||February 2, 2023|
|Book Type:||Fantasy Romance|
|Review Tags:||13 Kingdoms series | Male/Male romance | Queer romance|
I just read the whole trilogy, and for me only the third book reached my 3-star threshold of enough humor to recommend.
Also, the author should have been told to work on their understanding of travel times and archery. The protagonists walked or occasionally rode very long distances in way-too-short times through the whole trilogy. Jack was a good archer, and he notched an arrow many times in the whole trilogy. A fletcher (arrow maker) might notch an arrow, but an archer will nock an arrow.
If you like these you have to try Tavia Lark!
She’s kind of on my radar – I was going to try one of her recent releases in audio, but having listened to the same narrator in something else, decided against it. I find it a lot easier to find time to listen to books than to squeeze ebooks into the schedule, but next time I get a gap, I might give her a try – thanks!
I have the book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I think anyone who read the first book probably already figure out Sebastian’s secret, so the reveal at the end of book 2 wasn’t a surprise. I’m sorry to hear this book fizzled out a bit, but I’m still looking forward to reading more Jack and Sebastian banter. Thanks for the review.
Yes, it was pretty clear what Sebastian’s big secret was, but I did like the way the consequences were handled.
Caz, you have perfectly encapsulated my feelings about this book. I love Jack and Sebastian and the first 3/4 of the book was great. I liked the conflict when Sebastian was revealed to be a prince and how Jack didn’t easily let him off the hook. The fight with the sea monster was thrilling. The humor and banter were on point. But the last 1/4 of the book wasn’t as good. Since I knew it was the last book, I had been looking forward to a resolution of the storyline about Jack’s sister but what happened was unbelievably coincidental. The plot line about Sebastian’s waning magic was also resolved too easily. And where I thought there was going to be a big battle, nothing interesting happened. I liked where the author left the characters in the end and I definitely think there is room to pen another adventure for Jack and Sebastian in the future if the author changes her mind about book 3 being the series ender. I would certainly read another. Thanks for the review!
Yes, the resolutions were all way too convenient.
Sebastian’s magic is, well, magically restored via a potion
The healer, who has never even seen Sebastian’s dad knows exactly what potion will cure him and hey presto! It does
I thought we were heading for a big fight between J&S and the hydra – but no, instead someone else killed it and stole all the magical stuff so we got a dull kind of stand-off instead.
I’m hoping maybe we’ll get a book about Leofric at some point.
In her newsletter, the author said she would consider other books set in the same world. I would love a Leofric book as well!