The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is about June Costa, the “best artist in Palmares Tres” in her own words. Palamares Tres, a city built inside of a pyramid in futuristic Brazil, is inhabited by a matriarchal society with a tradition of electing a “Summer King” who is then sacrificed in the wintertime and chooses the queen as he dies. Everybody, especially the wakas (young people), loves the newest Summer King, Enki, whom June sees as a fellow artist. Together, she and Enki create art, fuel a movement to let new technology into Palamares Tres, and even though they know what happens to Enki, fall in love.
The beginning of the book was very confusing. Right away I was bombarded with familiar words used in unfamiliar ways. I at first thought Auntie Yaha was June’s actual aunt – until I was surprised to learn that Auntie was a title for a woman in the government and Auntie Yaha was actually June’s mom’s wife. After the first chapter or so, I was able to better navigate through this new and very liberal society, and as the book went on, the journey kept getting better and better. The characters and setting were very vivid, and since I had read the ending sentences before I finished the book, I loved the twist at the ending and was glad it wasn’t a sappy, melodramatic ending. Overall, while the beginning was a little strange, I liked this book, and I’m still fascinated that both of the books about matriarchal societies that I’ve read so far seem to portray that matriarchal societies are so much more flawed than patriarchal ones. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s another discussion for another time.