The Shape of Things to Come - M.J. Willow This review can be found at The Armchair Reader.

This is the story about Prince Hroald dreading the New Year because of the family curse he must partake in. On the eve of the New Year, Hroald is sulking when Einarr, Hroald’s twice removed cousin, tries to turn his frown upside down. Intending to indulge himself in one last desire, Hroald spends the night with Einarr. Unfortunately, the next morning things become strained when Hroald fights with his mother over Einarr. Einarr doesn’t quite know what’s going on except that Hroald has given up his rights as Crown Prince and he thinks it’s because of him. Upset over this, Einarr tries to find Hroald to set things straight… Einarr soon realizes the real reason Hroald has disappeared so unexpectedly.

This is one of those stories that had a lot of potential but didn’t exactly live up to it. While the concept is very intriguing and the world it is set in is interesting, there are a lot of loose ends regarding everything. The characters are interesting but they are very dense in characterization so we don’t know much about them. I couldn’t figure out if Einarr and Hroald have been holding a torch for each other for years or if this was just a spur of the moment emotion they both embraced for a night and then realized they wanted to continue. I liked Einarr, though, because of his real concern and worry over Hroald and Hroald’s position as Crown Prince. Hroald, on the other hand, I had a hard time connecting with. He used Einarr as a scapegoat and I couldn’t figure out if he was really sorry over that or not.

I enjoyed the story but I think the biggest issue is the length of it. Since it is so short, there really is no backstory, development or depth to what happens. What there is, however, is very entertaining and I liked what the family curse was and ultimately how Hroald tells Einarr of the curse and Einarr’s acceptance of it. I’d have really enjoyed this story had it been longer and if we had gotten more of a feel about the curse, the feelings (how/when they developed) between Einarr and Hroald and how their relationship can withstand what Hroald’s new life will be about.

Overall, this was an okay short story. It’s intriguing but also frustrating that it wasn’t fleshed out to its full potential. I’d have enjoyed this one more if the characters and the world had been more developed. What there is, though, is entertaining because it was a bit different than normal family curses especially for how it is used (or will be used) by the royal family.