Tor, Dec 2002, 25.95, 320 pp.
Teenage Princes Conal, Darag, and Ferdia, and Princesses Emer and her sister Elenn are in training together. However, during a competition, a war-horse dies in a tragic accident. The careless incident angers Rhiannon, the Goddess of Horses and other Beasts. She curses the kingdoms of the island of Tir Isarnagiri.
Though expected to marry Darag, Emer falls in love with Conal. He shares her deepest feelings as both fantasize of vanishing together. However the Prince knows he cannot leave as he has responsibility to his people being one of the two future contenders for the High King of the island. When war abetted by Rhiannon explodes, Emer confronts a personal dilemma between her duty to her beloved homeland and loyalty to her beloved Conal with the choice she makes impacting Tir Isarnagiri forever.
Expanding on a chapter from the KING'S PEACE, THE PRIZE IN THE GAME is an interesting Arthurian-like fantasy that allows readers to see up close the personalities of the key cast before they go on their differing quests. The story line slowly heats up so that the audience knows how each of the quintet interacts with one another, but once the plot boils it never cools off until the climax that sets in motion another sequel. Though told mostly through what happens to Conal, Emer, or Elenn, the five key characters enable fans to feel they know this fantasy realm as well as they do their homeland (then again in the USA geography is not a forte). Fantasy aficionados will look forward to the next novel set in Jo Walton's fantasy world.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner