Bad Prince Charlie
by John Moore
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013961
Date: 25 April, 2006 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Packard and Gregory have a simple, ingenious plan: put a tyrant on the throne, foment an uprising, get Noile's General Fortescue to invade, and make a fortune by selling out. They draft Charlie for their scheme by appealing to his attraction to Lady Catherine Durace (a redhead with claims to both the thrones of Damask and Noile). The fact that she's beautiful doesn't hurt either.
With the support of Pollocks, his father's Faithful Family Retainer (and drinking buddy), Charlie quickly encounters his father's ghost (who has a message--in iambic pentameter--from Beyond the Grave), an enemy noble named Ablemarle Gagnot (who seems to be interested in Catherine as well), a lovely teenage High Priestess with a knack for knowing the future... but he cannot find his father's sorcerer, Thessalonius, whose disappearance coincides with rumors of a Weapon of Magical Destruction.
Although Charlie wants to be a tyrant, it turns out he's not too bad at the messy work of rulership; he foils corruption,launches public works projects and worries over the kingdom's perennial drought. Things don't go smoothly, however, as Catherine appears to be playing games of her own, Packard and Gregory have not told Charlie everything, and the Weapon may be more than a rumor after all...
If Charlie can't figure things out fast, he may not need an oracular High Priestess to know his future won't be a long one.
Moore once again ventures into territory many readers might think owned by Terry Pratchett (and one or two others), and makes it his own. His characters are vivid and enjoyable, the puns are (mostly) inventive and the outcome is as unexpected as it is appropriate.
Fans of light fantasy should definitely give Bad Prince Charlie a try.