Author(s): Ramona Wheeler
Published by Tor on 02/04/2014
Genres: Alternate History, Science Fiction
Buy on Amazon •
Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke live in a world where the sun never set on the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 of Our Lord Julius Caesar, Pharaoh Djoser-George governs a sprawling realm that spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. When the European terrorist Otto von Bismarck touches off an international conspiracy, Scott and Mik are charged with exposing the plot against the Empire.
Their adventure takes them from the sands of Memphis to a lush New World, home of the Incan Tawantinsuyu, a rival empire across the glittering Atlantic Ocean. Encompassing Quetzal airships, operas, blood sacrifice and high diplomacy, Three Princes is a richly imagined, cinematic vision of a modern Egyptian Empire.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Imagine a world where the Egyptian civilization never fell; a world where the Pharos still maintained power and a legacy going back generation. That sounds like a pretty good premise for a book, right? I thought so too. Unfortunately while Three Princes has that awesome setup and gets the feel of the world right the actual story just doesn’t hold up.
This is a book I really wanted to like. I love Egyptian history and the Egyptian “style” so the idea of bringing that forward into modern times really intrigued me. And that is the big thing this book gets right. Add to that the fact that in the story the Incans also remain and are the Egyptians main adversary and I am totally on board. Ramona Wheeler is very good at describing the world in such a way that you can almost feel it. While the alternate history lover in me has serious issues with the leaps she took in getting Egypt to where it is in the story I was able to look over that. The idea of a giant metropolis built around the pyramids with zeppelins flying by is amazing. And Wheeler is able to make the descriptions really come alive and jump off the page. The aesthetic of this book is simply hard to beat.
Where this book really falls is in the writing and the characters. Three Princes is just not that interesting, which is surprising considering how intriguing the world is. The story itself is just flat out boring. I had little interest in the events as the played out and the actual plot is convoluted and all over the place. While I loved Wheelers descriptions of the world it feels like she got just too much into that aspect and the rest of it feels more like a vehicle for her to describe this world she created. Everything outside of the descriptive text seems like an afterthought.
The other issue beyond the overly dull and meandering plot is the characters. They are either unrepentantly bad or just too good at what they do to be interesting. At no point did I actually care for any of the characters or care what happens to them.
Three Princes offer an interesting, if not well thought out, what if story and a beautiful world intricately designed. Unfortunately that is all the book offers. Unless you have run out of other books to read this book is a definite pass.
Review by Travis Starnes