Today I’m pleased to be reviewing this excellent Young Adult novel by Shelley Wilson: The Last Princess.
The Last Princess was published in May 2022 by BHC Press.
Loosely based on what is known of the period when Vikings regularly raided Northumbria, this novel is strong and dramatic; in particular, the first few chapters are compelling. The story remains exciting and action-packed all the way through, and as a reader I find myself gunning for Edith the main protagonist of this enthralling tale, which has emerged from the few sparse historical facts we do have about the times of Aelle, King of Northumbria, during the middle of the 9th century.
I love the twists and turns, the changes of fortune, the developing relationships and shifts in the balance of power and political alliances which seek to unite two traditional enemies, the Saxons and the Danes. As Edith is captured by Vikings and transported across the sea to be sold as a slave, we follow her into a new way of life, a new culture, and a different way of seeing the world.
Among the many outstanding elements of this novel, I particularly like the author’s use of the trope of the fierce trickster who comes alongside the hero and may be an adversary but finally proves an ally; and the way the hero is saved by the loyalty she has engendered in this ally. I was also very impressed with the way the author remains true to the values of the culture and the times of Edith, the Last Princess of Northumbria, without imposing our modern way of thinking upon the story. Yet throughout this she maintains our sympathy with the character.
The dichotomy between the ‘Christian’ culture of the Saxons and the Norse worldview of the Vikings is fascinating: ‘their gods were on our side’ is a wonderful observation. I was also intrigued by the way the two religions find a place of appeasement and accommodation with each other in some respects, although it is still a very fragile balance; this was beautifully done. The narrative and trajectory of the story helps the reader understand how in a desperate life and death situation with such high stakes, fierce decisions must be made.
A highly recommended book.