Ten-year old Seth Bauman lives in the gang-ravaged streets of Silver Lake. Abandoned by his mother right after his birth, he shares a very dysfunctional and loveless home with his mean Uncle Troy and his uncle’s girlfriend Cheryll. Rather than care for the young boy, Troy and Cheryll spend most of their time on the couch in front of the TV, killing zombies and exploding enemy tanks. Seth’s true escape is in his drawings of dwarves, elves and dragons. Sensitive at heart, Seth wants to understand why Uncle Troy dislikes him so much; at the same time, he feels torn by an intense desire for approval.
Though Seth knows that his mother abandoned him, he innocently believes she’s out there somewhere and that one day she’ll show up with an explanation that will make it all make sense.
One day, his friend Elena, whom he always walks from school to home, is abducted by a local gang called LAMO—the L.A. Mayan Order. Brave at heart, Seth follows the Boatman of the L.A. River through the underground sewers and metro tunnels underneath Silver Lake, where the LAMO headquarters are located.
That’s when the fine lines between fantasy and reality blur. In fact, they grotesquely twist. Suddenly, Seth finds himself in a dark parallel world in turmoil where nothing is what appears to be. He meets Constantine, a faun who refers to Seth as The Nameless Prince, and who believes he is the famous prince of prophesy who’s come to save their world—the Interior—from the Dark Forces. Thus Seth embarks on a journey where he must pass tests and solve riddles in order to discover his true name and reunite with his long lost twin, the King. Eventually Seth realizes that he doesn’t need to understand what’s going on, but that he must have faith. If he fails, he could end up in the depths of the labyrinth, torn limb from limb by the bloodthirsty Minotaur.
But what is reality and what is fantasy? Is it all really happening or is it in Seth’s mind—a defence mechanism as a result of Elena’s abduction and the recent violence directed towards the homeless?
The Nameless Prince is a fascinating read. I love how the author presents the different realities and how he borrows concepts from quantum physics to enrich his plot: none of the alternate universes are true unless you step into them. There are parallels with Moses and Noah’s Ark and of course the novel is, like Alice in Wonderland, a “through the whole” story. At times, the novel reminded me of the film, Pan’s Labyrinth, where the young protagonist also escapes into an eerie and captivating fantasy world. However, The Nameless Prince isn’t as violent or sadistic. Ultimately, it is a story about the balance of the universe: goodness may win but there are always new evil forces at work. In other words, “maintaining harmony is an eternal struggle.”
Though Seth is ten years old, I’d say the audience for this book is 12 and up, and that includes adult readers as well. The Nameless Prince isn’t your typical YA fantasy novel published these days. Yes, it is a classic hero’s journey with all the tests and riddles, but it is also a book full of interesting ideas and substance. In short, it is a book that stimulates the mind and intellect. Recommended!
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My review originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.