Title: Henning: The Hunted Prince
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Queerteen Press
Pages/Word Count: 143 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Young Henning Babkis has learned not to consider himself to be anything special. Ignored and taken for granted by his family, his education suffering as a result of their neglect, he nevertheless struggles to fit in and improve himself, though with unimpressive results. He’s also learned not to expect anything more for himself, convinced that he’s doomed to live his life in a deep closet, surrounded by people who don’t care and who’d have given him a lot of grief if they were to find out he’s gay.
Things come to a sudden head when Henning’s fifteenth birthday rolls around. An unexpected and terrifying attack by a creature from another world shakes up his quiet life, and Norbert steps forward with remarkable and shocking revelations as to Henning’s true identity. And from a boy who’s grown up to think himself as a nobody, Henning discovers a previous life in a world called Wintergrave — a world of magic, romance, and danger.
In the company of a motley bunch of former warriors, Henning must reclaim his former life and regain his powers in order to defeat an old threat. But in order to do that, he needs to convince a certain former lieutenant that the two of them were deeply bonded before and need to reform their connection now in order to get their powers back. The wrinkle? Ellery Thomas is in a happy relationship with another boy in this lifetime.
Review: I love a Young Adult novel that doesn’t take itself altogether too seriously, which is one of the many reasons Henning Babkis, hero of this tale, endeared himself to me so quickly. Henning is what anyone might call a typical teenager, if, for example, one were to see him only as a boy who struggles in school and has never had a boyfriend. What makes Henning, our prince, so charming, however, is not only the quips he throws about here and there, but so much of what makes him loveable is that he has persevered in a family where he seems little more than the spare child; the footnote in a family with very narrow world views, who also happens to be gay. The fact that Henning has remained hopeful and full of wonder is, as far as I’m concerned, what makes him truly heroic.
Henning’s life turned topsy-turvy when he was snatched away from his family by his Uncle Norbert—just about the best ally a boy like Henning could have, I might add—because there are some secrets about Henning that will be harmful to him if he goes on in a state of unwitting ignorance. What Henning learns seems to reveal more about how unhappy he was at home with his apathetic family than it is impossible to believe Henning believes it quite so readily. Better the family you make sometimes… It almost seems a providence that the boy’s life is now in a near constant state of danger, because at least now he’s with people who care about him.
Henning’s life, to date, has been a fiction. His entire existence has been a manufactured non sequitur to the truth of his origins, and it’s this storyline that sets Henning: The Hunted Prince apart from any sort of traditional coming of age story. I can’t decide whether this is a book in which the characters drive the plot or the plot serves to develop Henning. Maybe it’s a bit of both because every weird and wild and impossible thing that crawls up from the bowels of the other world to try and capture Henning and deliver him to this story’s antagonist pushes him one step closer to the awakening of his powers. It seems, I might add, Henning invites danger into his midst, albeit unwittingly, and it’s this invitation that seems a foreshadowing of more danger to come.
Norbert, along with Cameron and Joni (poor Joni, the empath who has to wallow along with Henning in all his angst-ridden teenage romantic problems) and Ernie are Henning’s wing-team as he copes with the fact he’s really a prince who was something more than married in his former life in the kingdom of Wintergrave. The adults are the supporting cast in the storyline yet are imperative to its success, providing a familial wisdom and comical slant as they fumble their way through becoming instant parental figures to a boy who’s anything but your average teen.
The boy who was Henning’s bonded mate, Ellery Thomas, was the love of his life in Wintergrave. The only problem is that in this world, Ellery doesn’t remember who Henning is…or was. Well, not the only problem either; there’s also the issue of Ellery’s current boyfriend, and who wants to be seen as a teenage home-wrecker? Certainly not Henning. This storyline is a great contrast to the usual YA fare, as our dear hero, in a lovely twist, gets swept up in his own tragic romantic tale right along with his readers. We don’t know much about Ellery yet, so book two promises to be, if nothing else, revealing in a number of ways since there have been so many teases thrown out in this installment.
With humor and originality, warmth and understanding, and the promise of a fairy tale romance to come, Hayden Thorne introduces a world we’re only just getting a glimpse of. There’s magic and mystery and mayhem, action and adventure planted with the seeds of young love between the covers of this book, making it a fantasy for a teen audience that us grownups can love too. If you don’t like cliffhangers, though, or at least books that aren’t wrapped up tidily at the end, I’ll warn you that Book One is only the setup for much more to come.
You can buy Henning: The Hunted Prince here: