________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 37. . . .May 28, 2010.


The Prince of Neither Here Nor There.

Seán Cullen.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada, 2009.
384 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-0-14-317120-1.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Todd Kyle.





Brendan twisted free and stepped down the aisle toward the stage, where Deirdre D’Anaan sang the next verse, her voice like a magnet to the young boy....

See him come and take his place

At last to join the noble race

Sound the trumpet! Split the air!

The Prince of Neither Here Nor There!

The Dark and Light shall be as one

The children of the Moon and Sun

Shall be redeemed, the world to share The Prince of Neither Here Nor There.

Brendan, abandoned as a baby at an orphanage, is in his first year of high school when glimpses of his past and of his destiny lead him to learn that he is not human but a lost Faerie, one of a race of magical Fair Folk who have co-existed on Earth with humans who are no longer aware of their existence. Bit by bit, he is introduced to the Faerie world by other Faeries in disguise: fellow student Kim, substitute teacher Mr. Greenleaf, Celtic musician Deirdre D’Anaan, and his arch-nemesis Orcadia, who seeks to either enlist him in her war with the Humans or kill him if he is unwilling. With the help of Kim, he manages to escape Orcadia in a high-speed chase through a magical Toronto underworld, only to find that he must set off once again on his own to find the pendant left with him as a baby, and without which he can not master his new powers.

     Cullen, well-known as a comic actor and satirical musician (as Corky and the Juice Pigs, his send-up of REM’s Michael Stipe is classic), has sometimes been a bit of an odd fit with the world of children’s literature. His wit is sometimes too smart for its own good - or at least for its audience - and his technique of interjections and extensive footnotes by his “professional narrator” can sometimes be superfluous, if not grating.

     But here he seems to have found his groove. His Faerie world, with its good-vs.-evil battle, is earnest and dramatic, but not quite so much so as Susan Cooper’s. It is also highly convincing. Unlike the world of Harry Potter, there seems to be a real sense that magic takes mental concentration, not just memorization of chants and spells. But like Rowling, the best moments are those that expose the friendships and rivalries among key characters - especially Brendan’s links to his Human family and friends, which provide a few moments of moral clarity, and will clearly continue to colour future adventures in this Misplaced Prince series.

     Of course, there is also humour here: from the Faerie pub hidden on Toronto’s Ward’s Island (supposedly so named because a Faerie “ward” protects it from evil), to the Faerie-only island ferry, to the troll living in the subway tunnels, anyone who knows Toronto will see it in a whole new light. The narrator’s comments are full of gleeful satire, which contrasts oddly with the more earnest main text, and tends to beg the question: is it meant to be funny or serious?

     But overall, the adventure is palpable, the magic is psychological, and the gentle moral touches are just the right measure for a pre-teen audience.

Highly Recommended.

Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and has served on the jury of a number of children’s literature awards.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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