Revisiting the Gray Prince

As I slowly make my way through A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool, I am already contemplating other reads. Fred Saberhagen’s Brother Assassin, the sequel to the excellent Berserker, looms large on my nightstand. And then there’s a pile of Vance books I’ve built over the past few months. The Last Castle and Lyonesse in particular tantalize me.

Alas, I’ve been busy with too many other things. T’is the dry season for reading.

It was interesting for me, as a short diversion, to revisit my first posts about Vance. The Gray Prince served as my initial exposure to his work, and I wasn’t always quite so fawning as I am now.

To be sure I eventually gave it full marks, but I do recall that The Gray Prince took some effort to read. If you’re not used to that elaborate world-building of his, it can be quite taxing as you strain at every drop he pours into his settings. Eventually you learn to just bask in it and not cling so tightly to every made-up word.

Of special note:

First, the book is shorter than I was expecting. This isn’t a bad thing. It feels like every novel these days is at least 300 pages long. I’ve got queues of books to read, though – queues! This one weighs in at around 150ish pages, which is welcome.

It’s certainly very dense. Cirsova alludes to this fact in referring to the oddly numerous footnotes. I’m not opposed to this, but it does make for less of a relaxing scifi romp and more of a labor.

Even back in 2016 I was amazed at this new (old) word economy I was beginning to discover.

If you’ve never read any Vance, I don’t know that I’d recommend starting here unless you’re a really big Morrowind fan. But that said, I’m not sure there’s really a bad place to begin with him. Just some really superior ones.

Initial Thoughts on the Gray Prince

Final Thoughts on the Gray Prince


  1. I just ordered The Gray Prince, or The Domains of Koryphon as this version is known(apparently this is the title Vance wanted all along). In the meantime, I finished The Eyes of the Overworld and it was just as much fun as The Dying Earth. Different in tone and structure, more cohesive, but packed full with so much content, fantastical places and superb language I felt exhausted by the time I finished it(in a good way!). And it’s only what, 152 pages?!!!

    Also, Cugel the Clever is just fucking hilarious! Always betraying others yet indignant when the same happens to him, his plans almost always go wrong, he gets fooled so many times, every chapter he stops to curse at Iucounu the Laughing Magician for his plight

    That ending particularly had me laughing hysterically. I generally don’t like comical novels since they almost always never amuse me, but this was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

    I’ll probably take a break from the series and read one of his standalone novels. Probably The Big Planet. Now I see your enthusiasm for this author; he’s just so unique!

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