In A Princess of the Chameln, Cherry Wilder tells the story of Aidris Am Firn, whose parents, the king and queen of the Firn and one half of the rulership of the Chameln, are attacked in front of her. As her last living act, Aidris’s mother gives her a magical stone that will aid her in the future, and commands her not to let anyone else see it. Not long after, another assassination is attempted on her life and the life of her cousin, Sharn Am Zor, the prince who is destined to rule at Aidris’s side when they are grown. Aidris is sent to live with regent after regent, constantly on the run for her life, while she tries to seek out who poses a threat to her rule.
In some ways A Princess of the Chameln felt episodic rather than following one clearly-defined course of action. Aidris moves from location to location, learning new skills and hiding her identity, until she is finally able to announce her queenship when her closest friend and protector, Count Bajan, arrives to support her claim to the throne. One of my favorite parts of the book was Aidris’s training as a warrior, part of the Kedran, a group of female soldiers meant to protect a house. It seemed like one of the happiest and most carefree parts of her life, living among other women with no suspicion that she is royal.
Through all her adventures, Aidris is guided by a strange woman she sees in the stone her mother gave her. The identity of this woman is not revealed until late in the book; it is one of the overarching mysteries that ties all of Aidris’s adventures and struggles together, along with the identity of her great enemy.
One thing that made this book a little challenging to read was in understanding the complicated family lineage of all of the different characters. Aidris was related to quite a few people in the book, but they all had their own specific kingdom and family allegiances. However, I liked that Wilder gave those allegiances some nuance; very few characters were either “good” or “bad,” but had many different competing motivations playing out to influence their actions.
Finally, the prose, while slow and meditative at times, was lovely. Reading A Princess of the Chameln was a pleasure and I was surprised not to have heard of Wilder and this series (out of print, but recently re-released by Open Road Distribution in both Kindle and paperback versions) before.