Alexa, a woman of many secrets, submits herself to a tale of beyond-mortal peril when she decides to befriend Cordelia, a plain woman bound for marriage into the Holstein royal family. The wisdom of her decision in the face of political strife, the charming yet vexatious Prince Magnus, and the harrowing echoes of souls long dead is revealed within The Mischievous Maiden and the Sleeping Prince.
The piece opens in medias res, teasing readers with prospects of a plot that turns out to be a tad more complex than your typical historical romance with a dash of fantasy. Even if they aren't hooked by the image of a panicked and injured protagonist dragged away by royalty in a foreign land, MizA’s style is strong enough to ensnare readers with smooth text structure. The paragraph variation, in particular, lets one’s eyes slide from one scene to the next without much exhaustion when binge reading.
Another strong point lies in the exploration of the title’s genre. Where others tend to tack on the fantasy tag as window dressing to provide easy setpieces to drown shippers in, The Mischievous Maiden and the Sleeping Prince gives the more esoteric elements appropriate consideration. The plot feels very much alive past the romance.
The characters are palatable overall. I only found slight issue with Magnus and much of the reason for my weariness was put to rest before too long. In the beginning, it felt like he was going to be one of those romantic interests that get portrayed as perfectly attractive and acceptable despite legitimately abusive behavior. I’m glad to say that his faults and actions were recognized by both Cordelia and Alexa and dealt with in a manner that seemed internally consistent and appropriate given the context. The story doesn't fetishize or romanticize maltreatment despite a few beats implying that pairing up with the right woman could smooth out such a tract in a man. If there was one outstanding gripe I have about him, it’d be that he seems over competent in tests of strength and skill. The issue isn’t so bad as to make him the solution to every conflict, however.
Reading through the interactions and developing relationships between Alexa and even minor characters brought more than a few smiles to my face. There are enough humorous and heart-touching moments for the work to leave a lasting impression.
On the mechanical side, the writing is strong compared to your average piece found on Webnovel. That isn’t to say that everything is perfect.
The story often uses epithets in place of the characters' names. In some cases, it can provide information while saving up on words, but here it’s done too often and in a way that makes the scenes stutter a bit. It draws attention to description where readers are trying to process actions. Consider the use of so many bland words like “I” “said” “the” “he/she” etc. A character's name or a single, consistent epithet can be counted among their place. These common bits don’t look pretty, but they are essential for coordinating the text. Think of them as transparent strings on a puppet. When you replace lengths of them with material of different colors (a unique one for each epithet if you want to maintain this analogy) you risk distraction, or worse.
While MizA does a good job of making readers feel as though they are at the center of things, there are places where the text feels distant. You can catch the odd instance of someone trying to remove a hood rather than lunging for it. I yearned for more vividity in some scenes due to a reliance on adverbs, plain/chunky text, or redundancy.
Some of the adverb usage even feels like a crutch or worse, signposts implying that readers can’t discern the air of a scene. An early example takes place where Cordelia begs Magnus to not accost Alexa, interposing herself between the two. We already know that such an action could be conceived as brave, it isn’t necessary to say that she bravely held on to Magnus’ arm.
There are also instances of passive voice that can turn some people off. It weakens the text but isn’t there in a way that rouses too much of an issue. I suspect that some people who are sensitive to it might even pass it by unawares due to MizA’s neat flow.
Places where I hit a snag and had to stop reading for a moment were scarce but usually occurred when the above issues were found bunched together.
Another point worthy of consideration is the story’s word choice. It can be very hit or miss. Sometimes the text dips into extremely rare, awkward words rather than ones that are simply uncommon. I understand that some of this is due to an effort at painting an in-period picture, but other options would be understood immediately by a general audience while maintaining the effect such as “direful” or simply “dark” rather than “tenebrous”. A good trick is to seek out words using the more common prefixes/suffixes that were nonetheless left behind in the graveyards of eras long past.
All that aside, I truly enjoyed reading The Mischievous Maiden and the Sleeping Prince. So long as you keep your wits about you and aren't terribly frightened by shades, I’d say that the trip to Holstein is one well worth embarking upon.