A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Nadeli is super busy—and super over this shit. Between grad school, her misogynistic lab supervisor, multiple jobs and a lack of sleep, she’s ready to be on her way. So the emails she’s been receiving telling her that she’s the betrothed of some African prince? She’s over it. Over it.
Until that prince arrives at one of her jobs and literally sets things on fire.
She’d grown up thinking that she wasn’t wanted anywhere, but there had been a prince a world away who had been waiting for her and had apparently never stopped.
I absolutely adored this, and it’s not because I’m trash for alternative royal history! It’s not! I swear!
Remember those African prince emails from way back in internet history? This takes that horrible scam (it was so gadawfully racist), spins it on its head and turns that prince into real life. A prince who actually does need his betrothed, too.
“There is a term native to this region. I learned it last night. ‘nunya.’”
And it’s also a spin of The Prince and the Pauper, except Thabiso plays both roles and reaps the punishment for his extended lie (lying about who you are is bad, lying about who you are to someone who has only ever been abandoned and left is downright horrible).
“Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it. And it makes having to give to everyone else not so bad.”
I loved the chemistry between Nadeli and Thabiso, but my favorite character of all was Likotsi! She’s a super queer, super competent and super snazzily dressed badass! I can’t wait to read her novella, because I love her!
While I felt like the last bit of the plot was a thinly plotted and too easily resolved disaster, the chemistry between Nadeli and Thabiso pulled it together, and created a solution that just might work. Perhaps.
“Why do I feel like I’m navigating some kind of dystopian nightmare instead of one of the most famous cities in the world?”
And I was digging the Wakanda-esque vibes coming from Thesolo, an African nation dedicated to excellence and maintaining its culture while jumping head first into the future—leaps and bounds ahead of the United States. There were a lot of slam dunks on the US, from its pervasive systematic racism to not-so-great foster system to sexism to sketchy train cars and more, but it was also a kinda love-story to NYC too, capturing the city’s essence in a mundane yet exciting way.
“One fun thing you learn when you study Public Health, especially infectious diseases, is that most societies are one step away from dystopia, really.”
Anywho, Thabiso was the T’Challa of the universe, a prince who was just not sure about this whole marriage thing or being ready to rule thing but willing to try both (and maybe get back at his bride for ditching him all those years ago), and Nadeli was the wickedly smart epidemiologist learning to let people in and open herself up to love and heartbreak.
I can’t wait to read more of this series, even if I’m not super keen on reading about Portia, Nadeli’s kinda flakey friend with mysterious damage.
Also, read this if you’re into a kinda ghost story??? Or something that’s on the verge of it at all times!
“Never get on the empty train car when the ones on either side are full.”