Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Prince Of Soul The Prince Of Soul and the Lighthouse
by Fredrik Brouneus
Steam Press Ltd

Supplied for review by Steam Press Ltd

Reviewed By: Simon Litten
Jacqui Smith

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse is Fredrik Brouneus’s third novel, but his first in English (his previous publishings being in his native Swedish).

The Prince of Soul is firmly in the young adult market, but at the upper end of that demographic. The book tells the story of George Larson, a teenager in his final year of college deeply in lust with a Finnish exchange student, Kaisa, and plagued by late night visitations of his dead grandfather. George wants a really good night’s sleep and a better opening line for his conversations with Kaisa than "Um". He also wants to be a famous soul musician, hence the title.

George’s plans, such as they are, set adrift by the nightly visitations of his recently deceased grandfather and a Tibetan monk, Tenzin. Tenzin informs George that in a past life George created an unfortunate lighthouse and now he needs to put out the light in said house. Shortly after this George’s life gets very interesting – and dangerous.

I found The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse to be a fun romp that roamed over the southern end of the South Island [of New Zealand] and was also a tongue in check primer to Buddhism and to some strands of 17th century European metaphysical thought. Also I found myself enjoying reading a New Zealand novel for young adults that wasn’t all bleak futures and desperate hand wringing. Regrettably, Mr Brouneus’s earlier works have yet to be translated to English, but until there at least there is The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse.

-Simon Litten

It’s fantasy, and it’s set in the modern day, but it’s not urban fantasy. For one thing, there are no vampires, no werewolves, no wizards… just a teenager, his girlfriend, his sort-of zombie grandfather, a Tibetan monk, and assorted Men in Black. For another, it’s set in Dunedin and rural Otago – not a whole lot of urban there. The principle fantasy element is an unusual one - reincarnation is real, and someone has built a lighthouse to show the direction souls must go reincarnated as humans. Only it’s working too well, there are now too many humans, and somebody has to turn it off. That someone being our eighteen-year-old hero, George Larson, student and wannabe Prince of Soul (music, that is).

At times his plotting and characterisation stretched my credibility, but Brounéus has learned his craft well enough, and it hangs together. I also have my reservations about Brounéus’ take on Isaac Newton – who may have had some unorthodox religious beliefs, but as far as I can ascertain, reincarnation was not one of them. The sense of humour that pervades the novel certainly helps, a whole lot more than the preachy tone sometimes associated with religious themes like reincarnation. The illustrations are helpful, both in setting the mood, and aiding the reader with maps and diagrams (I like a good map, and let’s face it, for many of Brounéus’ potential readers, Otago might as well be an alien planet).

The intended audience for this novel is quite plainly young adults, but there’s plenty here to entertain the adult reader who is looking for something a bit different to brighten their day. Another one for the Sir Julius Vogel awards next year.

-Jacqui Smith

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