The Errant Prince by Sasha L. Miller

 

Image of the book cover of The Errant Prince
Image of the book cover of The Errant Prince

Reading The Errant Prince is like drinking a cup of hot chocolate in front of a fire, wrapped up in a blanket in the dead of winter: it’s simply an all-around pleasant experience. While we often judge books on their complexity of themes, characters, allusions, plots, etc, there’s something to be said for a quick little tale that doesn’t demand a migraine through the course of its storytelling. I picked up Sasha L. Miller’s queer fantasy romance novella on a rainy day when I had very little to do but lay in bed and read along with the patter of raindrops against my window; it was all very romantic, I assure you. All settled in and bundled up, I decided to approach the love story of Myron and Tamsen.

The story of Prince Tamsen and Guardsman Myron goes something like this: Tamsen, an extremely talented wizard, has run off, and has been gone for quite a while. Years at this point. People have been trying to track him down for ages, but he doesn’t want to be found and he definitely knows how to hide. Enter Myron, who individually is more tenacious and stubborn than your average search party, and tracks the prince to his rural cottage. Tamsen is curious about this guard who, though is a part of the Guard ranks, is surprisingly good with magic. He doesn’t want to go back to court, but Myron is too damn stubborn to leave. Hilarity and romance ensues. It’s a love story, a sweet and beautiful one at that.

The plot of The Errant Prince is best succinctly described by Miller herself: “the flirty soldier dude and the cranky stubborn prince dude and the drama that could’ve been but totally wasn’t…Plus MAGIC.” While there are moments in the novella that promise drama and angst on the parts of both characters, like the introduction of Tamsen’s former love interest and a brief confrontation with Myron’s parents, ultimately Miller never quite subjects her audience to the pain of tearing apart the two main characters.

So often when we read fantasy literature intended for adults, we’re subjected to the brutality of the genre. While I enjoy the darkness of these stories as much as the next girl, the lack of good representation of women, queer characters, or characters of color, as well as the verbal and physical abuse of women, often makes it difficult for me to enjoy these typical fantasy texts fully. Miller’s sunshine take on fantasy in The Errant Prince forgoes the grit and violence of darker works, but that doesn’t mean she shies from all serious topics to create a simple romp.

The real high point of the novella is Miller’s expert treatment of her LGBT leads, specifically her transgender character, Guardsman Myron. At the most basic level, (spoiler alert) Myron doesn’t die, which already contradicts the large percentage of trans narratives in existence. On a slightly less basic level, the narrative doesn’t focus on Myron’s coming out, transition, or genitals. Myron doesn’t serve as an educational booklet about trans issues and he is never forced to reveal his identity when he doesn’t want to (in fact, the book addresses consent in several places).

The Errant Prince doesn’t pretend that the realities of being a transman are easy. Myron’s chest binding is a “necessary evil,” his parents are disapproving of his gender identity and have effectively disowned him, and the narrative points out that trans people are objectified as “novelty beddings.” At the point at which the two leads are discussing Myron’s identity, he is “pleased Tamsen hadn’t yet asked anything stupid,” a call out to the litany of stupid questions trans people receive

Infographic about transphobic questions and phrasings from the UC Davis LGBT Resource Center
Infographic about transphobic questions and phrasings from the UC Davis LGBT Resource Center

every day. However, Miller instills a spirit of vibrant individuality in Myron that refuses to be defined by the prejudices surrounding trans identity. He will not be “ashamed of his life” in any capacity and his one rule is to remove toxic people who want to change him from his life. By all estimations, Myron passes the “Super Duper Test of Trans Awesomeness,” James St. James’ demand for better transgender representation.

My intense focus on this subject is born from my amazement with Myron’s treatment, and my own frustration with this reaction. I shouldn’t even be amazed, but the sad fact is stories like this just aren’t published every day. I kept waiting for Miller’s characterization to become problematic in some way, but Myron’s treatment in the narrative is overwhelmingly positive and that is the most delightfully halting part of this brief read. Miller creates a world that allows us to pretend, for two to four hours at least, that the world treats trans people like people. So while the story may lack in concrete antagonists, severe angst, or an absolutely epic and heart-stopping climax, Miller’s novella is still incredibly valuable as fantasy literature, for it demonstrates beautifully how to integrate marginalized characters into a world built of magic, royal alliances, improper guardsmen, and errant princes.

By: M. Aiken

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