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Book Review: The Soft-Shelled Prince

Table of Contents

“In a time ruled by fair-skinned kings and racial divides, the son of a fair-skinned king and mud-skinned peasant, Marcious Leojé, spends his days far beyond his father’s kingdom in the muddy mangroves with his best friend, Etel Duetman. Here, they form an unusual kinship with the native crabs and build a mud kingdom. These two mud-skinned teenagers feel invincible within this playground-sized fortress. The discrimination within the kingdom cannot reach them and the mud walls provide a sense of security.

However, they soon learn that their kingdom is nothing more than a mud wall, as it is unable to protect those they love. Cast into despair and the unknown world, they must learn to build a kingdom capable of protecting those they love. Along their journey they encounter people who show them the products of love, war, and despair. However, Marcious cannot envision his product, his own kingdom. Everywhere, being mud-skinned is worse than murder, and being “different” is worse than being mud-skinned. Will his vow to create a kingdom withstand the rising tides or will it wash away like that of his childhood?”

Title: The Soft-Shelled Prince

Series: Mud Crab Kingdom #1

Author: Joel Anthony Hamilton

Page Count: 183

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Date Read: October 28th, 2022

This was my second read for the 2022 Indie Ink Awards. Taking things at face value going into this book understanding it was intended for a younger audience I think helped me enjoy this read more than if I had purchased it blindly. That isn’t to take anything away from the writing though which I hope to explain further below.

I’ve come to realize I do struggle with some of my typical reads when so many of them start with young characters. I get it, that helps the character development and helps us understand them better. But this have been proven to be done well in multiple ways. Again I knew this was going to be designed around younger characters though and it was done really well. Rarely did I find myself annoyed with the younger characters and the author’s imagination was just amazing! This definitely took me back to my own youth and the imagine my friends and family had when we played.

Character development was done really well. We certainly get to know our protagonist well as he grows through his youth as well as his sidekick. We also learn of many support characters that help us understand the world around us more. I really liked how so many characters were so different from each other based on their own cultures and how they interacted with each other due to these differences. And probably most importantly the way they reacted whether they could understand perhaps the right way to treat someone or a situation.

Pacing was smooth. There are certainly some ebb and flow to the the read. But it was certainly a very easy and short read. I would highly recommend this book to someone looking for a palate cleanser from some epic fantasy or a younger someone looking to get into some fantasy.

World development was surprisingly well done. The scope of the world introduced seemed rather small at first but quickly expands and grows from there. From their own little makeshift kingdom and their reality, to neighboring kingdoms and the beginning of their real kingdom. The author explores so many different aspects and cultures along the way.

Overall this was a really great read about how different people in the world are and the opportunity we have in how we treat each other wrapped into a very imaginative fantasy world. The ending was a bit revealing and jarring to me but I’m interested to see where the story goes from here.

As I mentioned above I’d recommend this to younger readers looking for something easy to read and explore their own imagination or an adult typically reading epic fantasy but looking for a quick and easy palate cleanser.

World Building 4.5/5
Pacing 4/5
Character Development 4/5

This read was part of my assigned books for the Indie Ink Awards 2022. This review is completely separate from the scoring of this selection through the awards scoring. Some criteria may be similar but they differ enough that I wished to make this clear. Best of luck to all the authors, and get out there and try something different book lovers!

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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