Prince of Dogs is the second book in Kate Elliott's seven book Crown of Stars series. The first was King's Dragon (which I wrote about twice, most recently in this post). I know I've read Prince of Dogs before but that was a long time ago, probably in the early 00s, and I didn't remember much about it when I started it this time. As with my post about King's Dragon, this is not so much a review as a collection of thoughts.
The series is the sort where the books are really sections of one long story published separately so each one picks up pretty much immediately where the last one left off. And as such is both nearly impossible to talk about this one without spoilers for the first one, and the exact boundaries between the books are a little fuzzy in my head at times. In some ways this book is still setting up the epic fantasy "Save the World" plot that is going to come along in the later books - in fact, I'm not sure I realised there was going to be one at this point in the series. This is not in any sense a flaw. All the way through the series I was interested in the big epic plot because I wanted to see how these particular characters were going to deal with it.
The plot in this book is still strongly rooted in the intrigues and military matters of a medieval court under seige from without and within. The king's bastard son - Sanglant - is presumed dead in battle against the Eika invaders. Liath has found a place for herself in the Eagles, but she still can't tell who it's wise to trust. Alain's actually doing pretty well - he's been acknowledged as son & heir to Count Levastine, which is an incredible change in status. And by the end of the book he's even betrothed to the King's neice - perhaps a dubious prize (particularly as she's the daughter of the woman who had led the opposing side in the recent civil war) but nonetheless a mark of the King's favour (and Alain even fancies the girl!).
One of the threads running through the book is the two linked pairs of characters. Liath and Sanglant don't really realise they're linked as such. But Liath dreams of Sanglant - dreams that as the reader we know are true; and Sanglant's means of hanging on to sanity is daydreams of Liath. There'd been an attraction between them before his near death and capture, and it gets stronger through this book despite the distance. The other linked pair know they're linked - Alain and Fifth Son (an Eika) have visions of what the other one is doing, and they know that what they see is real. Alain's father even uses this when planning an attack on the city the Eika hold. Fifth Son, and the Eika in general, are one of the intriguing puzzles the series has. It's clear in the first book that they're a Viking analogue, and that they're not precisely human. By this book we're getting more intriguing hints about their biology and their society. In retrospect we also start to see how the link between Alain and Fifth Son is changing Fifth Son.
Another of the threads running through the book is dogs. The title, Prince of Dogs, has an obvious subject: the Prince, Sanglant, is chained up with the Eika dogs and has had to fight his way to being pack leader in order to survive. He's a prince among dogs and a prince of the dogs. But after having finished the series I could see how it might also at least tangentially apply to Liath, Alain and Fifth Son. I think it's clear by this book that the Eika dogs and the Eika are biologically closer than we'd expect - and so Fifth Son, as the son of the leader of this pack of Eika, is in some senses the Prince of Dogs. Alain's status as Levastine's son hinges round the fact that Levastine's dogs will obey him - heir to a Count is not exactly a Prince, but nonetheless his high status is because of command of dogs. And as Liath's heritage is gradually revealed over the series, her status also has links to this same dogs.
One thing that struck me after finishing this book is that it could've been wrapped up here as a "happy ending". Obviously I knew it wasn't the end as there are another five books - but I think even without that it'd be clear this must be the calm before the storm. Several of the characters have got what they think they want ... and in the next book we'll find out just how well that works out.