The Chosen Prince

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Chosen Prince Book Poster Image
Appealing tale of flawed, noble prince offers strong values.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story is set in a fictitious country whose culture, gods, and so on resemble those of ancient Greece. Zeus and Athene play a key role behind the scenes, and there are occasional references to Greek mythology, such as the labors of Hercules and the River Styx. Kids with an interest in mythology and the ancient world will enjoy comparing Alexos's story to those of other ancient princes, historical or otherwise.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about duty; the value of family, forgiveness, and empathy; loyalty among friends and countrymen; and kindness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a heroic character whose life is forever changed by his one horrible, inexplicable deed, Alexos does his best to make amends and be a good leader. Two adults who become father figures, Alexos's doctor Suliman and the mysterious Claudio, offer support and wisdom. Little brother Teo is sweet, childish innocence personified.

Violence

The most disturbing scene's violence is mostly implied, as little Teo reacts in shock to being set adrift. Most of the battle carnage takes place offstage, and the characters deal mainly with the aftermath. An evil character sends his uncle and infant cousin to die in a sinking ship. Alexos and his companions are constantly pitted against enemies who want to kill them, one of whom plans to execute the captive prince and seize his kingdom. Violence also befalls animals, especially those with the bad fortune to sacrifice to Athene; in one scene, four white heifers have their throats cut.

Sex

Some G-rated kissing as the story draws to a close.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the plot of Diane Stanley's The Chosen Prince revolves around the split second in which the noble and sorely tried protagonist commits an unspeakable act -- sending his beloved little brother to his death. While this deed is crucial to both character development and eventual resolution, and the book's message is positive and uplifting, the ultimate explanation may seem pat and unsatisfying for some readers, while others (not unlike Prince Alexos himself) may not be able to get past the awfulness. That said, this imaginative story offers appealing, complex characters struggling with personal and ethical challenges. Along the way, they exhibit many positive qualities: a strong sense of duty, loyalty, and love for friends and family, as well as endurance and determination in their quest to lift a curse and heal their kingdom.

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What's the story?

Once united in the same kingdom, Arcos and Ferra have been at war with each other for centuries, thanks to some past misdeed that caused an irate Zeus to curse them with perennial warfare, bad weather, and pestilence. But the goddess Athene, patron of the kingdom, does what she can to protect the people, who live in hope that THE CHOSEN PRINCE, Athene's champion, will come along and make everything right. So when a ceremony reveals the newborn Prince Alexos of Arcos as the long-awaited hero, the boy struggles to be worthy of his calling and to please his harsh, demanding father. When the king orders him to compete in an upcoming foot race, 12-year-old Alexos trains hard despite embarrassing preferential treatment. But when the big day comes, he dashes his father's hopes and barely completes the race -- because, as is soon revealed, he's the latest victim of the "summer sickness" (probably polio) that plagues the kingdom. Now disabled and struggling to walk again, Alexos suffers another stunning blow -- and commits a horrible deed known only to himself. As he struggles to redeem himself and become a good ruler, he learns many lessons about friendship, loyalty, empathy, and compassion, as well as courage. 

Is it any good?

Author Diane Stanley tells the entire story in the present tense, which gives it a vivid, somewhat dreamlike quality. She delivers complex, appealing characters facing overwhelming challenges, often with kindness, courage, and strong friendship. Some readers will be more persuaded than others by the divine revelation explaining the protagonist's wicked deed that haunts his life, but most will find the story's conclusion very satisfying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories about ancient Greek mythology and why they're so popular many centuries later. Do the adventures and conflicts of gods and heroes have anything to do with our lives today?

  • Have you ever done something really bad and had no idea why you did it? What happened?

  • If you were able to live in another time and place (historical or imaginary), would you? Which place?

Book details

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For kids who love mythology and coming-of-age books

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