I woke up today to the news that Prince William and his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton, are now engaged. ((Yes, I was one of those who woke up really early in 1984 to watch the wedding of William's parents.)) Congratulations, you two!
The news gave me the nudge I needed to finally tackle a question that a reader emailed me a while ago. ((Don't worry, I responded to her email already; I've just been saving her question for a rainy day. Or a royal engagement, apparently.)) Here's the hot topic:
I just have one question. I found I wanted to know what happened to the prince, and if he got his own happy ending. Will this be discussed or not? I just found that everything else sorta satisfied me, but him.
Before I answer the question ...
SPOILER WARNING! The end of Ash will be discussed right here in this blog post. Look away if you don't want to be spoiled!
When I first received this email I was a little stumped, because I remembered that Clara, Ash's stepsister, told her exactly what happened to Prince Aidan at the end of the novel. Here's the section from page 261 where she explains:
Ash smiled, and she asked, "Who, then, did Prince Aidan choose?"
"He chose an heiress from Seatown — I do not even know her name."
Her stepsister sounded carefully nonchalant about it, and Ash did not press her for further details.
So, that's what happens to the prince. He marries some unnamed heiress from Seatown. Is this a happy ending? Well, I don't really know. I'm going to bet that the unnamed heiress thought she got a pretty good deal by marrying the prince, but I doubt that she was really in love with him.
This is because marrying the prince in the Cinderella story is not really about finding true love. It's about making a good match — financially and in terms of class. It's about marrying up, as anthropologists say. Moving out of a lower class situation and climbing to the very top of the aristocratic ladder. If that's your goal — as it was for Ana, Ash's other stepsister — then you would be very happy to marry the prince.
You'll notice that Clara sounds "carefully nonchalant" about it, and that's because she personally held out hope that she could marry the prince. There was little chance of success because Clara's family was not wealthy or noble enough to truly put her in contention. But Clara did want it, even if her feelings about marrying up were not as mercenary as her mother's or sister's.
The interesting thing about Prince Charming, though, is that he's less of a three-dimensional character than a symbol. In all the Cinderella stories, he is the goal, the prize. He's money and wealth and power and success. That doesn't leave a lot of room for being human.
So, when I wrote Ash, I ran into that obstacle. I could never really find the character within the prince, and I think that shows in the book. He's the least developed character overall. I even feel more kinship to Jonas, the sometime servant/cart-driver who works for Ash's stepmother, than I do for the prince.
I did try to make him more interesting. I sent him off to war, but unfortunately, when he returned he turned out to be kind of hard and cold. It didn't work. And soon enough, I realized he would never have a chance with Ash anyway, because she only had eyes for Kaisa.
Anyway, my conclusion is: The prince married the heiress. Eventually he became king. I'm pretty sure he had children. Is that happy? I don't know, but it's not like he has a bad life. I mean, he's the prince (and future king!). He's got a great house, plenty of money, parents and a younger brother (Hugh! who I think is pretty cool) who love him, and an entire lifetime to work through his PTSD from that war I mercilessly sent him to. I think that as he ages — and especially after he's no longer the most eligible bachelor in the kingdom — he becomes a much more interesting person. Once he's no longer the prize, he has a chance to become human.
Lastly, I have to say it was really interesting for me to get a question about the prince. People often have asked me what happened to Clara, which I love, because she was an unexpectedly three-dimensional character for me. And of course a lot of folks want to know what happens next for Ash and Kaisa, and some of them want to know what happens to Sidhean. But this was the first time anyone asked about the prince.
I have to wonder though, will anyone ever ask me about Lore, Kaisa's apprentice? Because she totally has backstory. ;)
Edited to add: OK, so I was totally begging for someone to ask about Lore, obviously. Thankfully you have obliged me by asking (even though I know who you are, Amy!). So, I will tell you, but I'm going to put it in white text (highlight to read it) because Lore's backstory involves other characters in Ash. Read at your own peril!
Here it is: In several early drafts, Lore was a much more major character. She was the one who taught Ash to hunt, not Kaisa, because Kaisa was too busy being the King's Huntress. Also, I'm pretty sure Lore is Kaisa's ex. It's not entirely clear to me when they had their relationship, but they definitely had one. This is why Lore is so prickly when she first meets Ash. Of course, Lore and Kaisa are totally over, and obviously they now have a professional relationship. (Ha!) But still, it can be difficult to see your ex with a new partner, even if you no longer have feelings for her. And someday, in the future, Lore absolutely takes over the job of King's Huntress.