The social media buzz around Prince Freya was quite noticeable prior to its release. Naturally, being the curious manga reader that I am, it made its way onto one of my most anticipated series for April. Written and illustrated by Keiko Ishihara, the series boasted a striking cover and exciting premise. It is also one of Viz Media‘s Shojo Beat titles. But after reading, is there trouble looming behind the castle walls? Let’s find out if Prince Freya volume 1 is worth reading.
Our tale begins
Prince Freya is the story of a young village girl, Freya, who finds herself in a complicated royal plot. Due to her striking resemblance to Prince Edvard, she must now attempt to take his place after his untimely death. With dubious characters and uncertain motivations, she must now find a way to carry out her newfound royal duties and defend the realm of Tyr.
I liked the premise for this series. I always find the fish out of water that has to adapt to their surroundings a fun tale. Even more so when the stakes are literally of royal proportions. There is great care put into crafting the world that the characters would inhabit. The kingdom of Tyr needing protection as danger encroaches gives it quite a grand scale. Prince Freya’s setting is uniquely medieval. Which for a genre that can sometimes feel stale, it does a great job with its world.
I also found myself thinking about Game of Thrones while reading through the first volume. It has that sense of not knowing who you can trust outside of the main character. Everyone seems always to have an ulterior motive that they are reluctant to share, and that creates a tense atmosphere. Who will betray who? What will happen next? You’re never too sure you can relax, so you’re always a bit on the edge of your seat. It’s a smart way to create tension and hold a sort of suspense throughout the story. You can sort of figure out who the trustworthy ones are, but it’s the ones who are a bit hard to decipher that catch your interest. Overall I think the story might be the strongest point this series has to offer. It starts to set up the foundation to what will hopefully be some good plot lines.
A prince and her knights
As the title would suggest, most of our focus goes towards Freya. I found her to be a tad over sensitive throughout the first volume. She cries quite a bit, at times understandably so; however, I’ve never been a massive fan of these types of characters. There’s a progression that occurs throughout as she begins to impersonate the prince. Naturally, her personality changes to match his, so hopefully as this continues, she will gain more confidence when she is Freya vs Prince Edvard. Yes, I know this is only the first volume, so we’re just getting introduced, although it’s something I will be keeping my eyes on down the road.
Outside of Freya, most of the other characters did not feel quite as memorable. There are her childhood friends Aaron and Alek who are introduced because (well,) they have to be. As I said, the first volume means most of the set up for the future, so hopefully, that is why all the characters felt so standard? I’m hoping for proper development happening amongst them in the future.
The one character I remembered very clearly is Julius, the White Knight of Tyr or as I like to call him: King Smarmy. I hope he gets an entourage so that I can refer to them as King Smarmy and the Smarmelades. He’s just one of those characters that are trouble waiting to happen. He oozes smarminess. Okay, that’s the last time you will see that word I promise. From the looks of it since he was always at Prince Edward’s side, he’ll likely be around Freya a lot which might be an interesting dynamic.
Prince Freya volume 1 spoilers
Losing it’s head
So I mentioned Aaron and Alek briefly above, but I needed to go into some spoilers to discuss them. To start Aaron is dispatched quite quickly and his death did not have as large of an impact on me as I think it was supposed to. Sure seeing him get decapitated as he protects Freya was surprising but apart from the fact that we barely had any time to connect with him. It was just sudden and used more for a shock factor. He existed to share a moment with Freya and to provide a twist.
Now what this means for his brother Alek, is that he’s going to be guilt-ridden that he couldn’t do more and all those cliche tropes. We also see him try to take his brother’s place as the new Black Knight of Tyr. It’s decent motivation and all, but I just wished the mangaka had found a better way rather than at the expense of a character.
When it comes to the art style, all I can say is that it is perfectly serviceable. There’s nothing particularly wrong, yet at the same time, nothing here will blow you away. There’s a couple of beautiful panels here and there along with some great expressions. All the characters are differentiable from one another, which is something you always want. For a medieval story, it conveys those motifs well. The art style is also very shoujo-y? I know it’s not a word, but it is the only one I can come up with to describe it. In the end, it is a perfectly serviceable look.
Now, I have reread Prince Freya volume 1 twice, even going back to the first chapter for the third time. Not because I liked it so much, rather because I couldn’t understand it. At a certain point, it feels like there is a good chunk missing from the story. You have characters that are in one place, and suddenly it’s as if they teleported to a new location instantly. Add that to the fact that we only get the briefest glimpse of a meeting with significant repercussions. Before you think to yourself that maybe it was a miss print, I read it digitally. It was jarring and made me feel utterly lost. Honestly, I don’t know if I completely missed something, but it’s quite a glaring issue that needs to be addressed.
On a smaller note, setting aside the mystery of teleportation and missing conversations aside, there are some odd author notes. The mangaka gives her insight into the characters and the story, and while they are insightful, they happen to be in the actual chapter? While I hate to be calling this an issue, the inclusion of these notes mid-chapter breaks the flow of the story and pulls you out. I personally prefer my author’s notes between the chapters, think My Hero Academia for example.
Is Prince Freya volume 1 worth reading?
It is quite tough for me deciding whether Prince Freya is worth reading. Going into Prince Freya volume 1, I was looking forward to a hyped new series to enjoy. However, instead of leaving fulfilled and excited, all I got was a mix of confusion and disbelief. While there is quite a bit of potential for more drama and action, the structural issues don’t sit well with me.
I’m not someone who recommends without feeling 100% on it first, so the jury is still out on this. I have thought quite extensively about it, but all that gives me is a headache. I’ll be reading the next volume, but if the same issues persist, it may be time to put Prince Freya on the royal executioner’s block. Let me know in the comments below if you have a different opinion than mine. I’m interested to see if maybe I completely missed the mark on this one.