Book Review: The Tale of The Hostage Prince by Anna Tan

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Want to know if The Tale of The Hostage Prince by Anna Tan is worth the read? Here’s my full review to help you decide.

The Tale of The Hostage Prince Info

Author: Anna Tan

Published: 14 April 2022

Publisher: Teaspoon Publishing

Rating: 3/5

Where to buy The Tale of The Hostage Prince

Kinokuniya | Teaspoon | Shopee

The Tale of The Hostage Prince Book Summary

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?

The Tale of The Hostage Prince Book Review

If you have followed me long enough especially on my BookTube or my previous blog, you would definitely have known that I didn’t enjoy reading Amok which was the first entry into the Absolution series by Anna Tan.

So, going in to read this book I didn’t have high hopes nor expectations and in a way it was good because if I did have any semblance of an expectation I highly doubt I would have given the book a 3/5 rating.

Let’s start the review with the positives.

Character wise, I actually liked Raja Yosua as opposed to his childhood bestfriend Sultan Mikal. I felt that Raja Yosua is less whiny and angsty, it could probably be due to the fact that both characters are now in their early 20s. Either way Raja Yosua is more fun for me to read about, you can see that he genuinely cares for his people, it is just that he is so unused to his new royal duties and the responsibility that comes with it making him be socially awkward.

Another aspect that I enjoyed about Raja Yosua was the fact that he missed his hometown, Maha, causing him to have an inner conflict where he is confused as to what he is. Is he Bayangan or is he Maha? The answer is unclear as he is neither yet both at the same time which I feel everybody can relate to especially young adults who are exploring their newfound independence from their parental figures.

The one thing that I have always enjoyed in both Amok and The Tale of The Hostage Prince is Anna Tan’s brilliant writing. She has a knack in writing so eloquently yet still be simplistic, that you as the reader can’t help but be fully immersed and interested in the world she is creating.

And this is where we unfortunately have to delve into the aspects of the book that I dislike. I enjoy the authors writing, as said previously I genuinely believe Anna Tan is a very talented writer. But, it is not her writing I find faults with, it is everything else BUT the writing.

My biggest gripe with this book is Raja Yosua’s characterization. He is too much of a reactive character and is not proactive enough in changing his own fate and taking the bull by the horn. This is a problem I have had since reading the first book, Amok.

A reactive character is boring in my opinion because everything in the plot happens TO them and not BECAUSE of them. I cannot relate nor care for such a passive character,  perhaps the author was looking to make Raja Yosua more relatable and realistic as he is thrust into this new world that he barely knows how to navigate.

But, I am sorry to say that is just boring! I want to read about a Raja that is decisive in their action, they know what they want to do and damn the consequences. With Raja Yosua, he is too indecisive that he doesn’t decide on anything at all and by the time he has made up his mind, it is too late because other characters have made the decision for him and he again has no say in what is happening.

This is even more frustrating as towards the end Raja Yosua is written to be this savior, who is out to save his people from oppression but the story did not give me proof that Raja Yosua can be that savior. All it gave me was the fact that he mopes around, is sad for the most of the book; first he was sad because he missed his birth place and misses Sultan Mikal, then he was sad because his parents were murdered (which is a legit reason to be sad don’t get me wrong) but in all his sadness he doesn’t realize or shake off his naivete that there are bad political dealings afoot!

Aside from Raja Yosua, I have a problem with the antagonist. I will not reveal much on said antagonist to avoid spoilers but the ending for said character is so disappointing because they started out so great. Their character was such a Machiavellian villain. I felt that their antagonism fits with Raja Yosua as the protagonist and I was looking forward to their mental battle in the political arena ala Game of Thrones but alas Raja Yosua dropped the ball for the first half of the book and the antagonist just became this caricature of a villain towards the end.

Setting my grievances for the characters aside, let us move onto the pacing of the book. The books pacing was inconsistent in my opinion and I state this because the first and second act of the book was good but then when it came to the climax and the ending of the book everything was so rushed that it felt like there was no room to just digest what was going on.

And because there was no room to breathe and take in the atmosphere of the book, the ending lacked the gravitas or the impact it needed to ensure the overall plot had a satisfying ending. It just felt like Raja Yosua was planning (more like it was his people that planned it) the revolt and next thing you know everything is done and settled. Like did I miss a memo in regards to what happened in between? Did I receive a defect book whereby a few pages detailing the action of the revolt was missing? What?

This is may be nitpicky on my part but I am on the fence with the relationship between Sultan Mikal and Raja Yosua. A part of me feels like “Eh, whatever man” but the other part feels like this is low key queerbaiting.

I understand that perhaps the author intended it to be more of a bromance but some plot beats was a leaning a bit too far in the romantic aspect. Or am I just projecting my quasi-woke thoughts and wanting it to have a surprise gay relationship?

I am unsure myself but what I was sure of was how confused I was at their interactions with each other. It’s those small touches they have with each other that makes me go ”hmmm… sus”.

In conclusion, I genuinely did enjoy Anna Tan’s writing as it kept me hooked and continued to read the book even though I found a lot of issues with it. I do look forward to reading more of Anna’s works as I feel like with her talent, she can only go up from here.

Disclaimer: The Tale of The Hostage Prince was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.


Which culture inspired the Absolution trilogy?

The inspiration for the Absolution trilogy stems from a mix of cultures present in the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei along with Indonesia and the Philippines).

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