Book Review: The Gray Prince by Jack Vance

download (2)I’d previously reviewed Jack Vance’s The Dragon Masters, which I loved. Like that book, The Gray Prince is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. Jack Vance is a master of that blend, and I recommend him to anyone who would desire reading that kind of mix.

However, I can’t readily recommend The Gray Prince. As a book it’s okay, but I feel it ends abruptly and lacks cohesiveness. There’s also a few other issues.

The book follows a small family, with Schaine Madduc returning to her homestead from the space port. Kelse, her brother, is antagonistic towards their old friend Jorjol. Jorjol is a native Uldra who was raised on the homestead, but in later days has become known as “The Gray Prince”, a leader of a rebellion against the human land barons, who took the aliens’ lands.

The main problem with the book is its use of the alien language and personal names. The Uldra use several unique terms that are difficult to explain. Vance describes it in passing, but mostly uses them to immerse the reader in the world. That’s normally fine, but in this instance there’s so many terms that I couldn’t follow it.

The names are another issue. The first third of the book I kept confusing Kelse and Schaine, and I thought Uther Madduc (Kelse and Schaine’s father) was Jorjol’s actual name. I had to refer to a character list online to figure out everything!

As another positive, the morals of the book are interesting. One could say they’re “shades of gray”, to throw a turn of phrase. The land barons are by no means the “good guys”. Uther and Kelse were both clearly bigoted towards Jorjol, and the consequences of those actions are seen in the events of the book.

Ultimately, I’d say that the problems with the book have to be weighed against the creative worldbuilding and storytelling. I think Jack Vance was a talented enough writer to warrant a read of this book, if only because of the recommendations online. However, I think it was just “good”, not great.


You might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: The Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

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Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

1467740I don’t know exactly where to start on this book. It’s fantastic and the author is amazing. I give it my highest recommendation and suggest it to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or fantasy.

The book starts out in the past. This is on a distant world called Aerlith in the far future (relative to us), but the past is showing the history of this world. Long ago, the world was ruled by reptilian masters, aliens who had advanced technology and the ability to breed humanity to serve them.

Mankind, in their own way, bred the eggs of those aliens into dragons for themselves to ride. The eggs were bred into submission and became dragon mounts, able to bring their masters across the rocky, mountainous terrain.

This book packs in so many unique ideas and science fiction concepts. It’s fascinating to see how Vance is able to weave in interesting characters and ideas with plot progression. About the only thing I didn’t like was the aliens themselves. They seemed flat and uninteresting, even though they had an element of mystery.

The main character is Joaz Banbeck, descendant of Kergan Banbeck who defeated the aliens once long ago. He’s an interesting character, with his own goals and such. But he’s missing anything that makes him really unique as a person. He never really felt fully fleshed out.

The other humans were interesting, but some of the side characters were passed over quickly, such as the characters of Phade or Bast Givven. I get that it’s a short book (a novella, really), but it still felt frustrating when so many of those characters were interesting in their own right.

The ending really is bittersweet. Not bad, mind you, but a little sad.

All in all, I recommend this book highly.


You might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

You may also like my posts on a variety of subjects:

Turning a Hobby into a Career

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

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