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Prince and the Apocalypse by Kara McDowell

A review by Nalini Haynes

The Prince and the Apocalypse reads like fanfic of the British Royal family – with Prince Harry, the nice one, as heir but as a young single man – running concurrently with Armageddon or Space Cowboys. And with a touch of Mama Mia towards the end.

Wren Wheeler is on an OCD planned trip to London where everything goes wrong. She spends most of her trip holed up in her hotel room with food poisoning. It’s her last day. Her BFF is furious with her so abandons her in favor of other pursuits. Wren wends her complication-ridden way towards The Worlds End pub for breakfast, but it’s closed. (A Simon Pegg reference?)

While outside she recognizes the prince and rescues him from a gaggle of paparazzi and fans.

Everything shuts down when news breaks of a huge meteor aimed for Earth. The prince says he “owes” Wren so will get her home to America if she comes with him on a cross-Europe trip to his private jet in the Greek islands. Because plot. And because it’s totally safe to disappear with a stranger without anyone knowing where you are. Wren even thinks about the stupidity of this move but chooses to lie to her family about what she’s doing.

Road Trip

They set out with what little money Wren has, after she lies to her family about where she is and who she’s with. Because that never ends badly. Excuse me while I try not to rant about this DANGEROUS plot device.

The ensuing road trip is as credible as eating fairy floss for health reasons. I’m pretty sure the author hasn’t visited most if any of the places she incorporates in her story. Although I could be wrong! Suffice to say that there is very little vicarious “seeing” of the places the couple visits.

To notice

Wren spends her trip “noticing” the prince. McDowell uses various conjugations of the verb “to notice” so much that, if I had the ebook version, I’d search to see how many times. On the one hand this is kind of cute but it also threw me out of the story. The narrative pushes the reader back a step. It’d be much better to just write from Wren’s point of view and observe instead of telling us she’s observing. Like, “I could sink into his limpid pools of eyes” instead of “Wren notices his eyes” or words to that effect.

The pandemic never happened

The backstory of the Prince and the Apocalypse does not include the pandemic. Wren observes supermarkets stripped bare and wonders about it as if she’s never seen that before. Nice world. A bit jarring though. That threw me right out of the story: an apocalyptic novel that, without warning, is based on a fictitious world or it’s pre-pandemic or something. I guess it could be pre-pandemic?

Character development

As Wren and the prince get to know one another, their backstories emerge.

And the prince insists on jumping off a ferry in the middle of the Mediterranean because plot.

However, it’s not until the last leg of their journey that other characters are more than just wallpaper or setting. Even then, the village they visit just emerges fully formed, embraces the couple, and gives some feel good vibes. Some warm fuzzy scenes without really connecting with those fleeting side characters.

The verdict

The Prince and the Apocalypse reads like fan fiction. And, if you like your apocalypse to be fairly feel good with an odd end implying a sequel, this is the book for you. I was disappointed. My love for the original Pride and Prejudice and the Colin Firth version are no secret; Austen does character development and romcom beautifully. I hoped for something a teeny bit like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but road trip and an alternate view of Armageddon and Space Cowboys. Instead there was a lot of “noticing” and an ending that implies there may be a sequel. That I won’t read.

If you want a FUN young adult story with romance, snark and more, read Love & Resistance by Kara H L Chen. She appeared as a special guest in this podcast.

And I’m sorry but WAIT, WHAT? The publisher has it in the “educational” category??? (see below, copy/paste direct.) Like, WHAT education? That Greece is part of Europe?

Book details

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781761267727
Imprint: Macmillan Australia (PanMacmillan)
Format: eBook
Pub Date: 11/07/2023
Category: Children’s, Teenage & educational / Romance & relationships stories (Children’s / Teenage)
Children’s, Teenage & educational / General fiction (Children’s / Teenage)
Children’s, Teenage & educational / Children’s / Teenage fiction & true stories
Teenage & Young Adult Fiction / Young Adult

The prince and the apocalypse: two people face each other on the book cover

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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