I suppose when the author is as famous as Frances Hodgson Burnett (of The Secret Garden fame), the work can't really be called obscure. But I for one had never heard of her book The Lost Prince and certainly never read it growing up. But I read it now, and while I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if I had been 12 years old, I still thought it was a good read.
The Lost Prince centers on Marco Loristan. Marco has had an unconventional upbringing, shuttling about all over Europe with his father and one servant, living a pretty poor life. He is Samavian, but the country of Samavia is in civil war. Marco's father, Stefan, is a Samavian patriot and often has clandestine meetings with political figures. But Marco himself leads a lonely life, with very few friends his own age. That is, until he meets some street children that practice military drills, headed by a crippled boy who calls himself The Rat. Marco and The Rat become fast friends and soon are asked to set off on an adventure that is greater than either of them ever imagined.
While I enjoyed this book, I think it's definitely one that is for younger readers. I would probably rank it more as "children's" than "young adult." The title itself is a bit of a spoiler, I think, and it is pretty hard to believe that Marco goes through the entire story (and it's a pretty substantial-length story) without putting two and two together, considering how intelligent he is always described as being.
That is another thing that became a little wearing. Between Marco and his father, there weren't many imperfect characters in this book. Both are like gods on Earth, always calm and fair, never letting their emotions get the better of them, never making a mistake. It was certainly inspiring, but also rather wearing. I got a bit tired of everyone looking at Stefan with a "worshipful" gaze because of how much peace and goodwill he radiated out.
There was also a plot line in the book that I thought was very sloppily done and not dealt with in any manner that made sense. Marco is once kidnapped by people grilling him for information on his father and Samavia. He gets away, only to run into one of the kidnappers again. He gets away one more time and... that's it. There's no more mention of the kidnappers, they play no further role in the book, and there is no resolution as to what happens to them. I am not sure why they were in the story except perhaps to add excitement to it.
And really, that is kind of what makes my complaints above moot. This is a children's story, and children deserve to believe in white knights and heroes and grand adventures had by minors. It's fun and imaginative and I think this book would be a great bedtime story for kids probably about six to nine years old.
In a way, it makes me think that I am saddened by my cynicism sometimes. Throughout the book, I just kept thinking that no one could be that perfect. That there must be a flaw, and people will realize what it is soon enough. I started thinking about the likelihood of certain events occurring, and the suspension of disbelief. I think that's why, often, children's books don't work as well when read in adulthood. We never approach life with that sense of idealism and wonder that we had when we were young, and so books like this do not hold quite the same magic as they used to. But it's still nice to read them, once in a while, and remember what it was like when you thought that all the world needed was one great hero to save it.