Review: The Prince of Secrets by A.J. Lancaster

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Jenny Zemanek is very quickly becoming one of my favorite cover artists!

Now that I’ve finished up my SPFBO responsibilities for the year, I finally have time to read this one. I’ve been looking forward to it since reading Stariel!

I’m going to make this as spoiler-free for Stariel as possible, but with this one it’s hard because, well, even the blurb makes a few details about things that happened in the last book pretty clear. Sorry for that. You can stop right here and go read The Lord of Stariel first, if you’d like. I won’t be upset.

Well-bred women should not be seen kissing their butlers. Even when the butler in question is secretly a fae prince.

Wyn knows falling for Hetta Valstar is a bad idea. She’s not only human but the new magically bonded ruler of Stariel Estate. If their relationship gets out, it’ll cause a scandal that could ruin their attempts to sort out the estate’s crumbling finances.

And it doesn’t help that Stariel has decided it doesn’t like him.

But more than jealous sentient estates and Hetta’s good name are at stake. Wyn’s past is coming back to bite him. Ten years ago, he broke an oath and shattered the power of his home court, and the fae have been hunting him ever since. Now they’ve found his hiding place, they won’t rest until he’s dead or the debt is repaid–and they don’t play nicely. 

“I have caused a great deal of trouble.”

“What am I supposed to do with that? Punch you in the face?”

“You may, if it will make you feel better,” Wyn said with a slight smile.

Marius’s eyes flashed. “What will you do if I tell you to stay away from her?”

“Probably not stay away from her,” Wyn admitted. “Are you sure you don’t want to punch me?”

You know a book is a good one when you’re drafting up squee-filled blog posts when you’re only halfway through it.

This is the continuing story of Henrietta “Hetta” Valstar, the brand new, magically bonded Lord of Stariel, and Wyn Tempest, the long-serving butler and now steward of the estate.

A relationship between them would cause a scandal, not the least of which because Wyn is technically Hetta’s employee, but if anyone important finds out that Wyn is in fact a fae, and a royal fae at that, then things could get very, very scandalous indeed. But love rarely cares for the scandal it will cause, and Hetta and Wyn are falling pretty hard for each other. So they’re going to try very hard to keep their relationship a secret, while trying to secure funds to help bring Stariel back from the brink of bankruptcy. Wyn has enemies in the fae courts though, and after a decade of searching, they now know where he is. So, not only do they have to avoid scandal, they have to avoid the wicked fae as well.

I liked The Lord of Stariel a lot. It nearly became my SPFBO finalist, only being nudged out by a fraction of a point. I can safely say that I loved The Prince of Secrets. Love, love, loved. I love Hetta so much. She was snarky and didn’t take anyone’s shit in book one, and that Hetta is still very much a part of book two. I still absolutely love Wyn as well, and enjoyed that we get to see so much more of his real nature in this one. So, now that the two of them are together, and adorable together, at that, it’s easy for me to say that this one was hard for me to put down once I picked it up. These two banter absolutely excellently and I was a thousand percent here for it the entire time.

There was action, and intrigue, and really interesting new characters added to the mix. This is a story of two people trying to be together despite huge differences and tons of barriers between them, and it was often sweet, and even sexy once in a while.

Lancaster also brought this interesting world to life for me once again. It’s not quite steampunk, and not quite gaslight, but it’s sort of adjacent to both. There are cars, and trains, telephones, and electricity, but they are only just brand new. There are fae, and magic, and adorable unicorns. It’s cold, and sometimes it is dark and full of danger, but ultimately there is hope, and love, and togetherness. For Hetta, this is her family. For Wyn, it is a found family.

Their faces were only inches apart, his eyes cold and boring into hers. The smell of thunderstorms spiked thick enough to choke on, and when he spoke his voice held dark echoes of the night.

“I am stronger than you, faster. I could snap your spine if I wished. I know fae magics that would let me ensnare your senses, bind you to do my bidding. I am not tame, Henrietta Isadore Valstar.”

I love a book with dark fae. The fae in folklore have usually struck me as beings who would be, at the very least curious of humans, but ultimately use their power to trick them into things, and this is very well represented here. We see Wyn in his natural form a lot in this one, and I found it very intriguing and compelling to read about. Little things, like the names of different feathers from different parts of a wing made it feel, if not real, then as close as it could come.

Some of Wyn’s family, and a few more of the non-related fae make appearances in this volume, and it’s quite interesting to see what his siblings are like, as compared to him.

“You don’t want me dead.”

Rakken rolled his eyes. “I’ve already said your death profits me nothing. To repeat the sentiment seems excessive.”

“That has to be the lowest bar for familial affection I’ve yet encountered,” Caroline said. “Ahh… not to take away from what is clearly a sentimental moment for the two of you.”

I have so many quotes highlighted in this book that the clippings page makes up a bit of a novella of its own. I love it when that happens in a book, when I find dialog between character that makes me chuckle, or deep thoughts between bits of dialog that make me smile. This volume is full of that sort of stuff.

So, all told, I have to say that I enjoyed my time with The Prince of Secrets a lot! It took characters I already loved and made them among my most favorite characters ever. I wasn’t even halfway through it before I was hitting up the internet for book three. SPFBO or not, other reviewing obligations or not, fucking clear my schedule for as much of this series as I can shove in my brain ASAP. 5/5 stars!

Goodreads
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