Note: This interview was originally part of the Crown & Serpent blog tour, and was first shared on @a_lady_and_her_literature Instagram page.
While we don’t get Henri’s POV in Crown & Serpent, I wanted to take a chance to interview this nineteen-year-old prince of Ryden.
Hello, Your Highness. Would you like to introduce yourself?
You don’t already know who I am?
Well, I do, but I thought it would be helpful for the readers if you introduced yourself.
Very well. I am Prince Henri Ezra Kaelin, heir to the throne of Ryden.
I didn’t realize your middle name was Ezra. You don’t use it often.
Would you like to tell us why?
It’s your father’s name.
How would you describe your relationship with your father?
He is my sire. My king. I live to serve him—literally. The only reason I was born was because he needed a son and heir.
The talk of Ryden society right now is speculation about your future bride. You’re old enough to be searching for someone. Has anyone caught your eye?
Not as of yet.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re looking for in a wife?
Intelligence. Fearlessness. Beauty, of course, but inner strength matters far more to me than outward appearance. I want a true companion. Someone I can trust. Someone that can embrace my goals, and make them her own.
What are some of your goals?
Many won’t come to fruition until I am king, but I intend to make sure Eyrinthia never overlooks Ryden again. My father wants me to help him conquer Devendra, but I intend to take so much more than that. I assure you, history will remember me. My name will be echoed for centuries, while that of my father and brother will be long forgotten.
Your legacy seems very important to you. Do you think it has something to do with your brother’s death?
Leaving a powerful legacy is the most important thing you can ever do, so of course it’s important to me. My brother’s death really has nothing to do with it.
Farrell died before your birth. Despite that, there are many stories of his bravery, monuments to his memory, and countless paintings as well. Do you feel you know him? Even a little?
I may have never met my brother, but I have known him all my life. I’ve lived under his shadow in every way—in my lessons and training, in the way everyone in Ryden looks at me, in the expectations my father sets. Farrell and I will always be compared, and I hate that. My father speaks endlessly of Farrell, his beloved son. His perfect son. The son I am meant to imitate, but never have a chance of becoming. The son who will always be better than me, because only his perfect memory remains. My father will always consider me second rate, because Farrell is not here to make mistakes—but my every perceived flaw is on constant display. I am in constant competition with a ghost. How do you think that feels?
It sounds miserable.
Indeed. But growing up this way has taught me some valuable lessons, and I believe I am a stronger person for it. Not only that, but there are some parenting mistakes I now know to avoid with my own children someday.
What sort of parent do you think you’ll be?
I intend to have full control of my children. They will each have a role to play, and I will give them every necessary skill they need to succeed. I will keep them in competition with each other, so they always strive to be better. To be the best in my eyes. By giving them each a unique purpose, they will achieve perfection. And, by extension, I will be made more perfect, and Ryden will thrive under my rule.
Describe yourself in three words.
Determined. Unflinching. Driven.
What’s something you love to do?
I love riding. It brings me peace. Helps me clear my mind, and make sense of my muddled thoughts. I could spend endless days with my horses and never become bored.
What is your earliest memory?
My father, giving me my first dagger. I was five or six. I was so excited to have that blade. It was beautifully crafted, a magnificent piece that had been in the Kaelin family for generations. I was admiring it, shifting my hold, and the knife slipped. It clattered to the stone floor, and my father became livid. He screamed that Farrell would never have dropped such a gift. He said I would never be feared if I couldn’t control even a simple knife. He snatched it up before I could, and then he sliced the blade over my arm.
It was the first time he’d ever raised a hand to me. I was shocked. I just held my bleeding arm, my eyes burning as he railed at me. But I didn’t cry. Refused to shed a single tear during his lecture.
When he was finally done, he slammed the hilt back into my hand, hissed, “Never disrespect me with your failure again.” And then he strode from the room, and I cried. I think it was the first time I cried since I was a babe. It was the last as well. I left that room with a dagger and a scar, and a determination to never give him a reason to hurt me again.
Your family is . . . complicated. Can you lay things out for us?
It’s not that complicated. My father had a family before me. A wife he loved. A son he revered. When Farrell died in battle, he was an adult. His mother couldn’t handle his death, so she killed herself. My father was old enough to be a grandfather at the time, but that didn’t stop him from marrying his wife’s younger sister. I was sired for a purpose—to avenge Farrell, and fulfill my father’s revenge. A means to an end. That is all I am to my father. But one day, I will prove that I am so much more.
And your mother? What happened to her?
She died the day I was born.
I’m sorry for your loss.
Don’t be. I know little more than her name. And in truth, death was a better fate for her than marriage to my father. She meant nothing to him. Her life would have been a misery.
What is something you’re reluctant to admit, even to yourself?
That maybe my father is right. Maybe I’m not as strong as Farrell. That I’ll never be better than him.
What is your greatest fear?
That I will be forgotten.
Who is your best friend?
I don’t have friends. It’s better not to. Friends can get too close, can betray you. Subjects, soldiers—that’s all I’ve ever needed.
Who is the person you despise the most?
Farrell. He may be dead, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hate him.
I guess that’s true. But who do you despise most that’s still living?
All right, last question. Summer in Ryden is a time filled with balls and parties for the noble class to enjoy. Are you looking forward to any of that?
Actually, for perhaps the first time, I am. My father hasn’t made the announcement public yet, but . . . I have until the end of summer to choose a bride. So, this summer, I’m going hunting. And I plan to find my perfect match.