Mirror for Princes

Tom De Haan, Author Alfred A. Knopf $18.95 (421p) ISBN 978-0-394-56359-6
In the mythical medieval domain of Brychmachrye, the setting of this wrenching, somber first novel, bloodshed, disease and emotional cruelty are the only constants, power serves as an instrument of torture, and the royals are no happier than the peasants. Reyhnard, the moody third son of tyrannical king Basal, is the narrator and, it rapidly emerges, one of the few main characters to survive the combination of cruel fate and crueler humanity that defines his existence. Ignored in his youth and trapped in an early marriage to an ambitious slattern who continues to sleep with his father as well, Reyhnard knows no happiness until he meets his long-absent sister (and probable twin) Madeleine. Althugh the pseudonymous author liberally seasons his plot with adultery, rape, incest, suicide, duplicity and gore, his mournful, lachrymose style prevents the melodrama from seeming lurid; even the decadence in this bleak kingdom becomes joyless and oppressive. De Haan's flashback structure gives away too much too soon, but his meditative, graceful storytelling mines real drama from a well-imagined world. Literary Guild alternate. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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