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Review: ‘Prince Freya’ Vol. 1

Prince Freya Vol. 1
Writer/artist: Keiko Ishihara
Viz Media; $9.99
Rated T+ for Older Teen

Freya lives with her ailing mother in a small village in the kingdom of Tyr, the only country that has yet to be seized and conquered by the expanding empire of Sigurd. Quiet and lonely, Freya is nevertheless “clever and bold in the oddest ways,” as one of the men in the village who has sworn to care for and protect her and her mother puts it.

There is something exceedingly, even uncannily special about Freya, although she won’t discover it until it is far too late: She just so happens to look exactly like Prince Edvard, the young ruler of Tyr. Cut her hair and put her in a young man’s clothing, and she could easily pass for him.

And that is the premise of Prince Freya, the new shojo medieval drama by Keiko Ishihara (The Heiress and the Chauffeur). The only people to have made the Freya/Edvard collection are brothers Aaron and Alek, who were raised by Freya’s mother, but then went off to fight to protect the kingdom, Aaron becoming one of Edvard’s most famous personal guards, his Black Knight, and Alek his page.

They return briefly to the village for what appears to be a rare visit, but they’re actually sent to recruit Freya, as it turns out Edvard has been poisoned and is dying, but the brothers couldn’t go through with endangering their little sister. Circumstances lead Freya and Edvard coming face to face, though, and they dying prince asks Freya to take his place and protect Tyr.

Her first performance manages to save the day, but just the one day, and so when Edvard finally succumbs to the poison, her impersonation becomes a permanent one, and the fate of the kingdom, her village, and her friends rests on her fragile shoulders.

Complicating matters is that Edvard, despite how much he physically resembled Freya, was her opposite in every other way. Not only does she have to try and compensate for her lack of political, courtly and military knowledge, but she also must learn to fake his boundless confidence and playful insouciance. She has help in the form of Julius, Edvard’s constant companion and White Knight (whose affection for the prince may have also been romantic), Alek, and Tyr’s general, the only men who know the switch has occurred.

Naturally, there are also the outlines of a love triangle starting to form between Freya-as-Edvard, Julius, and Alek. Despite these hints of a romantic element, and flashes of sword-fighting, however, Ishihara’s first volume is more focused on the palace intrigue and almost-operatic melodrama of Freya’s plight, rather than on romance, action or the comedic possibilities presented.

For such a potentially fun premise, it’s an awfully intense comic, but then one definitely gets the sense that Freya will grow into her role. After all, though she spends a lot of time in this volume in tears, she’s capable of pulling off her deception in emergency situations, and there is that odd clever and boldness she was known for in the village.

The second volume is currently scheduled for a July release.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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