The Prince

Written by R. M. Koster
Review by John Kachuba

The first in a planned series, The Tinieblas Trilogy, The Prince is based on Machiavelli’s treatise with the same title. The rise and fall of politicians and presidents in 20th-century Panama fuels the life of Kiki Sancudo. Kiki was a former athlete, Olympian champion, Yale graduate, and faithful son who learns about his country’s politics and is headed in that direction when an opponent literally shoots him in the neck, turning Kiki into what he himself calls a “plant,” a quadriplegic. He spends his days plotting revenge against his assassin, Nato Espino, whom he plans to torture and then kill in a chilling way that makes the reader wonder if Nato will die of fear before the actual act occurs.

This story of his life and the political life of Panama is replete with constant takeovers, especially that of his father who is considering a third attempt at being elected president in spite of being deposed two times previously. Corruption is rife, American interference is a complicating issue, and trust is nonexistent. Elements of the Latin American literary style of magical realism fill these pages, such as when as Kiki grows a protective carapace that is his physical and mental force. While it is sometimes hard to follow the multiple names, this is a literary rollercoaster foray through Latin American politics full of adventure, intrigue, sex, humor, horror, and integrity. This is historical fiction that well deserves its National Book Award status!