Prince Dietrich is a short, fat, immature, selfish…you get the idea. He’s so loathsome it’s hard to call him the protagonist of The Amazing Adventures of the Dashing Prince Dietrich. So you can imagine what the antagonists are like. His biggest detractor–in his mind–is his father. Tired of Dietrich’s constant failures, the king arranges his son’s marriage to Duchess Amadea of Sacony (for her big, fat dowry) or face banishment to the Black Desert. The king has also arranged a marriage for Dietrich’s cousin, Count Rotger (Ruddy), to Amadea’s sister. Left without a choice, they embark on their wedding journey.
The reluctant grooms wander from the itinerary (of course) to the first brothel they find. From then on, every choice Dietrich makes, from taking hostages to making deals with mercenaries, is clearly the wrong choice. With no logical reasons behind his actions, the king, rulers of other cities, and Dietrich’s sister (with her own aspirations to the throne), all try to put his unfathomable choices into sensible context and respond accordingly. The machinations and motivations behind their actions leave them all looking less-than heroic. This puts Dietrich’s miserable behavior into perspective, giving the reader a modicum of sympathy for him. In realms where everyone who is anyone got there by being worse than the next guy, well…Dietrich is the only thing he can be: a Dick.
Although Ruddy instigates the initial fiasco, he’s the closest there is to a “good guy.” Still, no one has much integrity. The story’s appeal isn’t in rooting for anyone’s success so much as watching the train wreck to see what car comes off the tracks next. There’s a morbid fascination as Dietrich screws up in seemingly irrevocable ways, only to come out on top.
With strong, descriptive writing, it’s easy to get caught up and carried along in the story. The most interesting characters–Dietrich’s sister Mina, and his two “hostages,” Eva and Nicole–could have been more developed–even protagonists–rather than secondary characters for the male-driven action to play off. Being the first in a series, the ending leaves many possibilities for them to come into focus in the next installment. While Volume 1 was an entertaining read, it’ll take work to make us care about what happens to Prince Dietrich in the future.
This isn’t the first review to compare The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich with watching a train wreck and won’t be the last. There’s something fascinating in an embarrassing way about not being able to pull away from a story with such despicable characters. The writing is excellent and Ljubuncic keeps the reader walking a tightrope between wanting the “dashing prince” to succeed and wanting him to get his comeuppance. The author’s ability to keep the reader turning the pages despite so few not- despicable characters, is truly a feat to behold.
The Rating4 Stars (out of 5): Recommended. For the right audience, this book is a great read. It can hold its own against any traditionally published novel in its genre.
The Pros & ConsPros: Characterization, Dialogue, Humor, Prose
The ReviewerLynne Hinkey‘s website.
Welcome today's author, Igor Ljubuncic. Igor has quite an interesting story himself--dabbling in a wide array of interests beyond writing a funny-bone tickling (anti-)hero's journey. I hope you enjoy getting to know him a bit better through this interview as much as I have.
LYNNE: What inspired you to write about Prince Dietrich, who is essentially, the antithesis of a hero?
IGOR: Normally, I steer away from black & white characters. Pure good or pure bad is boring. In my previous works, I tried to strike a balance between the two opposites, to create morally ambiguous stories that would be engaging, compelling but also very realistic. Then, one day, I was thinking, what should be the theme of my next book? More of the same? I had to challenge myself. And then, suddenly, it dawned on me. Pure good IS boring. But pure bad? That might work. My protagonist should be someone who is unpredictable, spoiled, privileged, entitled, cowardly, morally empty. Someone who is so absolute in their (corrupted) ways that it is annoying, even maddening. However, had I taken it too seriously, such a book would have been way too bleak - hopeless and ugly. So I added humor, and thus, Prince Dietrich was born. Someone who is the antithesis of a hero, but a funny one.
LYNNE: Is Prince Dietrich modeled after a real person? (You can tell us about him/her without naming names).
IGOR: Yes and no. I have seen Dietrichesque people in life and on the silver screen, so in a way, my sweet little prince is a combination of several personas that I have encountered over the last few years. But then, he is also a special snowflake of my imagination, too.
LYNNE: Is there a character in The Amazing Adventures of Dashing Prince Dietrich who you particularly relate to, or who is your favorite--who and why?
IGOR: I like Crispin, in a way. He is patient, intelligent, courageous. He does live and act in Dick's shadow, but then he is not without his own will and personality. He is a strong driving force, and he has a sense of purpose about him that does not shift or fade away when things turn ugly. He copes well under pressure, and he never loses his moral compass. Crispin is who Prince Dietrich should have been in an ideal world.
LYNNE: Is this your first novel? What else have you written? Published?
IGOR: I have written quite a few books in the last 25 years or so. My first fully complete novel dates back to 1990. I wrote it as a kid in an A5-sized notebook, a total of 199 pages. It's a silly adventure, and the plot is so full of holes, it's ridiculous. And yet, it has its charm. I am actually working on translating it and getting it published, without editing the plot whatsoever. Then, I've completed a huge epic saga back in the late 90s, which I never released, followed by half a dozen incomplete works that culminated into The Lost Words series, published between 2012-2015. That can be considered my first real outing into the market. Since, I've accelerated the pace of my writing as well as publications. I've participated in three - actually four (one coming up soon) - anthologies sponsored and led by the SFFworld.com team in the past five years. One of these stories even got nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternative History, which makes me extra proud. Lastly, I have also authored three technical books, including one by Morgan-Kaufmann/Elsevier.
LYNNE: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
IGOR: This is an excellent question. Let me see. I would go with: J. R. R. Tolkien, J. V. Jones, Paul Kearney, Joe Abercrombie, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Leon Uris, Bill Gunston, Lynn Flewelling, Stephen Budiansky, Paul Feval, and of course, William Shakespeare. There might be a few more, but this is my instinctual response, without overthinking it.
LYNNE: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and when did you start writing?
IGOR: I am a former physicist who now works in IT as a principal engineer. I have a lot of hobbies and colorful interests, including website design, 3D art, and, in addition to all the technical articles and science-related posts, I write car reviews on my main blog. I speak three languages, stammer another three, and I can read five different alphabets. I'm a horrible dancer but I'm an awesome Karaoke singer. I'm also much less funny than I perceive myself to be. I started writing when my age crossed into the double-digit range, and I've been doing it ever since. It's a deep need inside me. It just comes out.
LYNNE: Are there any resources that were particularly helpful to you and that you'd recommend to new writers?
IGOR: I have learned a lot of stuff through trial and error. Sorry, that's a wrong term. Through trial and more trial. It's not about errors, it's about improving on what you do and making it better, faster, more elegant, more professional. The one big lesson is that you will NEVER be 100% happy with the outcome of your work. Never. You just need to accept that and move on. Do not try to improve an existing work. Looking back, you will always find reasons and excuses why it could have been done better, and there will be a temptation to revisit that old book or story, and try to fix it. Don't. Write ANOTHER book and ANOTHER story, and THAT will be the improvement you seek. With time, you will start seeing patterns in your writing and storytelling and learn how to avoid pitfalls of sidetracking yourself with narrative fallacies and your own paradoxes. Finally, you must be professional about it, whether you go solo, indie, self or paid. You need an editor, you need a skilled proofreader, and you need a real artist for your covers. Do not try to shortcut it, it won't work.
LYNNE: Finally, what are you working on now?
IGOR: I have just finished the second volume in the Woes & Hose series. It's called The Glorious Adventures of Glamorous Prince Dietrich. Let us all take a moment to appreciate that. I also have a zombie novella waiting to be published, and it's written in first person, something that I've never done before. There's my childhood book, and I'm putting the last polish on the biblical story of Samson & Delilah, but with dragons in it. Let there be dragons! Next year, I will write the second zombie novella in this open-ended series, and most likely finish the Prince Dietrich trilogy. After that, who knows?
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Lynne Hinkey‘s website.