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