Palace intrigue, death, and love open the medieval tale Prince Freya, vol. 1, by Keiko Ishihara. Freya lives in the kingdom of Tyr, which has been taken over by Sigurd. She looks like a typical Shojo heroine: long flowing locks, naive at first, but carries a bold fierceness within. She is awaiting her childhood friends, Aaron and Aleks, who both serve as the personal guards of Prince Edvard. In the past, Freya had saved her friends and it bonded them for life. Aaron and Freya share some alone time, and he lets her know he has great affection for her that goes beyond friendship. Freya at first doesn’t believe his feelings are real, and that he is just teasing. It is left up to the reader to decide.
Before we can get an answer to that question, several major events unfold. Lord Sable, from the neighboring village, wants Prince Edvard to face him, and also kill Aaron, Tyr’s best knight, in hopes of weakening the kingdom’s power base. Before that can happen, Prince Edvard is poisoned. Freya, not wanting to lose Aaron, seeks out Prince Edvard. She finds him in the garden, dying. He begs her to become him and save the kingdom. Freya decides to assume the Prince’s identity. Unfortunately, she is unable to stop Aaron from being killed, but she is able to stop Lord Sable from taking over Tyr.
Prince Freya has a medieval setting, so there are castles and people wearing armor and carrying swords. The story conveys differences between the commoners and the royals. Freya, when we first meet her in the story, is dressed plainly and lives on a farm. We can understand the power dynamic when Lord Sable comes and asks for Freya as payment. If she is not turned over to him, he will destroy the town. In true shojo fashion, the potential male suitors are gorgeous and handsome beyond belief. Aaron, since he is the older brother, exudes confidence by standing straight, chest puffed out. He is confident in himself and not afraid to pursue Freya. Aleks is shorter, shown standing behind his brother, and partially covers his face with a scarf. He is also scrawny and less muscular than his brother.
I highly recommend Prince Freya, Vol. 1 for inclusion to any library or personal collection. Based on the first volume alone, the story seems like it has possibilities to go into many intriguing areas. It promises character growth for both Freya and Aleks as they struggle to save the kingdom of Tyr. We are also introduced to a new knight in waiting for Julius who may have a hidden agenda. Will Freya be found out? Will she find love with Aleks or possibly Julius? My only quibble is that Freya is the only female in the story. I hope in future volumes she will be surrounded by and receive support from other female characters. The manga is rated for older teens due to some violence. A character is beheaded and there are also strong flirtations with characters pressing up against and aggressively pursuing each other.
Prince Freya, Vol. 1
by Keiko Ishihara
Viz Media, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: T+ for older teens
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18)