Prince Rashko can’t stop worrying. His parents are missing. His brother Paulek doesn’t believe anything is wrong and thinks Rashko needs to stop being so concerned. That’s easy for Paulek to say and impossible for Rashko to do. In his mind, Rashko has to do all the thinking for his family or at least that’s the way he sees it. His parents, the king and queen, are too trusting. and don’t take the precautions Rashko thinks they should. They see the world simply and Rashko’s older brother Paulek is just like them.
Thankfully there are people with sense to help them like Georgi, the castle steward. It’s Georgi who convinces Rashko to take another look at his parents room where the prince discovers an enchanted invitation lying discarded. An invitation that directed his parents straight to faerie.
The king and queen have disappeared at the worst possible time. An uninvited guest shows up at their tiny kingdom. Baron Tenmy doesn’t have a good night’s rest on his mind or a welcome feast. He wants their home for himself. Rashko needs to find a way to get Paulek’s attention off Tenmy’s daughter and onto the danger.
Intertwined throughout Rashko’s tale is the story of Pavol, another young prince who lived long before. He too fled a dangerous foe, the only survivor of his childhood home. He has to face ridicule, challenges, dragons and more to protect his new home from the same fate as his first.
Bruchac’s retelling of a Slovakian fairy tale makes for an interesting middle grade fantasy read. This is not a fast-paced action story. Rather, reading this book is like figuring out a puzzle. Everything has a role and you have to know the pieces to understand the big picture. Gypsies, magical dogs and knowing elders add to the tapestry of this book.