Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Published by Diminished Media Group, October 2011
Cover art by Mitch Bentley (high res image worth a look)
Reviewed by Lyn Perry (I received a free advance copy.)
The Worker Prince is a YA space opera novel with a straightforward and recognizable plot, solid but predictable action and characters, and a clear, if a bit heavy-handed, moral. It's a good first effort by an emerging author (I rate the novel 6 out of 10). Here is a bit of critique interlaced with an occasional spoiler.
After reading the prologue, you'll easily spot Schmidt's influences. He borrows from the Moses/Kal-El mythos and the first portion of the book is devoted to our protag Prince Rhii's journey to self-awareness. Instead of nephew to the High Lord Counselor, Davi (his nickname - and true name) discovers that he's actually the son of Worker parents. The Workers are the last enslaved people of the Borali Alliance and are ruled by the Prince's uncle, a somewhat one dimensional tyrant named Xalivar.
Upon witnessing the injustices done to the Workers, Davi sets out to undo decades of prejudice and slavery by advocating for their freedom. This sets the Prince at odds with his uncle and while his adopted mother, Miri, initially seeks to placate her son and maintain the status quo, she eventually reveals to Davi his origins and becomes his advocate (and her brother Xalivar's adversary). So the story unfolds and ultimately escalates into a foreseeable confrontation between the banished Prince and ruling High Lord.
Of course, there are a few twists and turns along the way, including a test of friendship, a bit of romance, and a feuding duel with a lumbering ox of an ex-classmate named Bordox. (Which, by the way, makes for a fun prequel short story by Bryan Schmidt titled "Rivalry on the Sky Course" which I published at ResAliens this month.) The novel is unsophisticated, but keep in mind that the quintessential space opera, Star Wars, isn't very complex either. So you'll forgive the author when you realize the Worker battle training and final standoff against the Alliance echo Luke Skywalker's rallying of the troops to face the Empire.
So overall, The Worker Prince is a nice bit of sci-fi adventure with a generous dose of anti-bigotry thematic elements. The writing is competent although a bit lackluster at times. The opening action is engaging and promises a rolicking space adventure, unfortunately the anticipated suspenseful thrill ride gets bogged down by the occasional dialog heavy exposition. In addition, the third person omniscient POV gets a bit tiresome as the reader never has to infer the interior life of the main characters - I'll tell you what I think instead! My suggestion for the next novel - go with 3rd person limited and show more of the characters instead of telling us everything about their motivations.
As mentioned, I'm giving this a 6 out of 10, which is still a recommended read on my scale. If you like your YA novels straight with no chaser, this new release might be just what you are looking for. Plus, it's a safe, clean bet for your middle schooler. To help you decide, here is 4 of 5 star review by another indie author, R. L. Copple. (Or read it on Goodreads and find more reviews.)