3 Star rating
By Nancy Springer
ISBN# 9781611876451
Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Alina

*Beware of Spoilers*

the-kingmaker-nancy-springerWren is the King’s daughter. She is wise and very responsible, and she has been advising her father and his subjects ever since she was a little girl. However, she cannot be her father’s heiress, because she is only a girl. Instead, the kingdom will go to her cousin, Korbye. Wren’s full name is Vranwren Alarra, but nobody, not even the servants, use it, because she is just a small, plain girl. She wonders sometimes what it would be like if she were an heiress, but she knows she cannot change the “fates”. Until one day, when she settles a dispute over a pig.

I found this short story very intriguing. I have read too many fantasy stories and watched too many movies, to immediately feel its ‘authenticity’. The style and the vocabulary are adequate to true-to-life tales of old kings and mighty deeds: “fey”, “chamber”, “to bespeak”, “stronghold”, “thanes”. The atmosphere is gloomy, scary, and you can feel that there is something bad waiting to happen any minute, even if the day is sunny and inviting.

The discovery of the special swine-stopper and the ensuing events brought to mind predictable and well-known situations and symbols: the story of the wren, the mother dying in childbirth, the child being gifted at birth. You almost start wondering when are the fairies going to show up. However, this is a historical fantasy, so it’s more likely that someone’s going to get slaughtered.

The main character, Wren, is fifteen and dreams of becoming someone that people would respect. She has the power of sooth, which means she knows when people lie. By the end of the story, she will also become the Kingmaker and suffer the fate of the bird that gave her her name. She feels temptation through the ring of power she finds:

“the ring felt somehow willful, inert, yet alive. It bent to my touch […]”

and she wishes to attempt with its help

“what would otherwise have been impossible”

All this sounds very familiar. I liked that she rejects it and managed to impress me at the end both with the choice she makes and with the wise words she uses to explain it to her father.

While reading the story, I had the very strong impression that there should be more. Too many elements of fairy tale, history, fantasy mixed together, and too little time to enjoy them. Instead, we get sentences that summarize what in a novel would be whole chapters. The character development also happens very fast, I thought, but then I realized that Wren had lived in that world her whole life. She was prepared for these kind of situations. She was not a fairy tale princess who waited for her prince charming. On the contrary, she knew that if she did not obey her father, he would kill her on the spot.

The ending made up for some of the loose ends and took my mind off some questions I had formed, so on the whole this is a story I would definitely recommend to lovers of fantasy.