The Stone Prince is the first book of a series by newcomer Fiona Patton. She doesn't break new ground, but does explore concepts like gender equality, religious intolerance and homosexuality in a way that isn't preachy.
The world of The Stone Prince resembles Renaissance Europe, and the country of Branion is a thinly-disguised England.
Prince Demnor of Branion isn't the typical too-perfect hero, which makes him a fascinating character. He's quite flawed, and in some ways, behaves like a spoiled brat. Then again, when one is descended from a family gifted with a flame-like power that if not mastered, would either drive one insane or burn them from the inside out.
Demnor's lover, Kelahanus, is a Companion--a rather intriguing blend of lover, spy and assassin. His job, outside of keeping the prince happy, is also to insure that Demnor did his duty as heir, and in doing so, avoid civil war with the second most powerful family in Branion.
The characters were deftly drawn, and it was eye-opening, to say the least, that the female characters could be just as bloodthirsty and ruthless as the men. Melisendra, the Aristok of Branion (and Demnor's mother), could show Xena how to fight and win battles. As a mother, however, she will not win any awards, since she equates love with weakness.
The Stone Prince was an enjoyable read, and a great beginning from a new talent.