Book Review: The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Firebird/PenguinPutnam
  • Release Date:  04.04.2003

The story of Medraut – strong, skilled, daring, and never to be king…

Medraut is the eldest son of Artos, high king of Britain; and, but for an accident of birth, would-be heir to the throne. Instead, his younger half-brother, Lleu, is chosen to be prince of Britain. Lleu is fragile, often ill, unskilled in weaponry and statesmanship, and childishly afraid of the dark. Even Lleu’s twin sister, Goewin, seems more suited to rule the kingdom.

Medraut cannot bear to be commanded and contradicted by this weakling brother who he feels has usurped his birthright and his father’s favor. Torn and bitter, haunted by jealousy, self-doubt, and thwarted ambition, he joins Morgause, the high king’s treacherous sister, in a plot to force Artos to forfeit his power and kingdom in exchange for Lleu’s life. But this plot soon proves to be much more – a battlefield on which Medraut is forced to decide, for good or evil, where his own allegiance truly lies…

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My Review:

I love King Arthur legends.  Love, love, love them.  I took a class the beginning of 2013 that completely revolved around the legend and where we read everything from The History of the Kings of Britain to more modern pieces like The Mists of Avalon.  Our range of topics touched on everything from the myth itself and its historical roots, to the treatment of women, to the use of symbolism to reinforce the story.  When I saw that The Winter Prince was being offered for review, I recognized Elizabeth Wein’s name from her more recent works and decided to give it a go.  I am glad I did, for while I didn’t enjoy her more recent books as much as I wanted to, my time spent in The Winter Prince was so very rewarding.

One of the things readers of Arthur legends have to get used to is the substitutions and strange spellings of random names.  Someone picking up this book and expecting an Arthur story will be surprised at the emergence of an Artos instead.  But Elizabeth Wein chose the names she did for a reason, and told an extremely interesting story crafted around Medraut, also known in other stories as Modred. While the story of Arthur and the betrayal of Guenevere is often told in stories and in movies, the story of the betrayal of Arthur’s oldest son is not as often focused on, other than as a sad ending to an otherwise glorious career.

Wein really makes Medraut a character who can be sympathized with.  I am always interested in the other story – the side that doesn’t get told.  In fact, we joked in class that it would be interesting to see the story of Arthur as told from the opposing (see: defeated) side.  But those stories don’t exist because, as history tells us, the writers of history are always the victors.  Thank goodness, in this day and age, we can often imagine the opposing sides viewpoint through the imagination of skilled writers.  And that is what you get in The Winter Prince.

If you are an Arthur myth junkie like I am, then The Winter Prince is a must-read.  Wein’s writing is extremely mature, and this book is not to dismissed as an easy read due to any marketing it may do as a young adult novel.  It’s a meaty, delicious story that is a must-have for any Arthur fan and it holds a proud place in my library.

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