Picks and Pans Review: A Mirror for Princes

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tom de Haan

The most intriguing thing about this book is its pseudonymous author, a Brit in his early 20s. Could it be Prince Edward? Or Princess Di's brother, Viscount Althorp? Someone, certainly, who is privy to the precarious nature of royal power. Young Prince Reyhnard, a third son, grows up isolated from his tyrannical father, who has seized the crown in an imaginary medieval kingdom. Not taken seriously, due to his berth in the hereditary lineup, Reyhnard endures his father's abuse while forming bonds with his siblings. Married off to the king's mistress, he finds solace in an incestuous affair with his only sister; when one brother dies and another kills himself, Reyhnard unwillingly takes the throne. His scheming wife usurps his power, and ultimately Reyhnard chucks it all. The novel is written as a memoir penned during his later years, which he spends living in a hut with Serena, a retarded peasant. Though the prose is first-rate and the story moves briskly, its inescapable flaw is that Reyhnard is a wimp. Things happen, he's left to whine—and we're left in the Middle Ages with a blizzard of details about a place that doesn't exist. (Knopf, $18.95)

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