Prince Freya, Volume 1 by Keiko Ishihara
I really liked Ishihara’s other series The Heiress and the Chauffeur, which was only two volumes but left me wishing I could read a longer series by the author. I’m always up for shoujo fantasy, and “girl who must disguise herself as a boy” is one of my favorite plot elements so I have been eagerly waiting to read Prince Freya.
Freya lives in the quasi-medieval setting that is very familiar to fantasy fans. She likes to casually jump off cliffs and is a well-beloved figure in her village, as she heads to town to fetch items for her ailing mother. Her adopted older brothers Aaron and Aleksi return home for a visit. Aaron is the famous Black Knight who guards the Prince and Aleksi seems mostly content to remain in his older brother’s shadow. There’s a bit of a budding romance between Aaron and Freya, but Freya quickly gets caught up in court intrigue though. Due to her habit of hanging out in high trees she overhears a plot to attack Aaron and the palace. She sneaks in and discovers that the prince ailing, and Freya is his exact duplicate. Far too quickly, she assumes his identity and manages to pull off a stupendous impersonation as the prince. This comes out of nowhere, I would have appreciated a brief 2 page prince training montage to at least address how on earth this happens. Freya’s Prince Edvard is both arrogant and charming, which contrasts with her more naturally retiring personality, putting aside the cliff-jumping and tree climbing.
There’s a terrible tragedy, but Freya is drawn even more into her deception after the prince dies and she has to make sense of what the small circle of courtiers around her is telling her to do as she continues to play along with hiding the prince’s death so the enemies of her country don’t catch on. The art is clear and expressive, and Freya and her quasi-adopted siblings are sympathetic characters. I’m hoping that the second volume has some time to slow down a little bit and let the story unfold a little more gradually. I’m very much looking forward to the second volume.