Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Kristof never expected to have to take his brother’s place as betrothed to one of the King’s Princes of the Blood. But when his older sister became ill, then the eldest son moved forward to take her place, leaving the youngest Kristoff to become the Duke of Stehlmore, and the only one left to marry a notorious Prince of the Blood. All Kristof wanted was to continue his role as a Paladin and keep the borders of his mother’s kingdom safe but fate clearly has other ideas.
On the journey to Guldbrandsen. Kristoff and his company are attacked by goblins. Overwhelmed, they are saved by the appearance of two Princes of the Blood. Kristoff had never met a Prince of the Blood before and now he had two to thank for his rescue. But the two Princes could not be more different in appearance and demeanor. One is courteous, handsome and tall. And the other? Well he is small enough to remind Kristoff of a piskie. He is also arrogant, insulting, and rude. And Kristoff can’t wait to be rid of him once they reach the castle.
Unfortunately, upon reaching castle grounds and his meeting with the King, Kristoff finds that the Prince he is to marry is none other than that tiny abomination that rescued him from the goblins. Kristoff is unprepared for his new life at Guldbrandsen or for all the magical beings and demons that walk the hallways. As a Paladin, he is overly sensitive to the presence of demons, but the pain he feels in the hallways of the castle or even standing next to his fiance is almost more than he can bear.
Then a demon plot is discovered that could destroy not only Guldbrandsen but his mother’s kingdom of Stehlmore too. Every warrior, Prince and Paladin is need to find the culprit and save the lands. Kristoff is determined to honor the contract and not to shame his heritage or mother by his cowardly fear of the Princes, especially now that he is needed for the fight. But the pain and stress is increasing daily. What is a Paladin to do?
I loved the first novel in the series, Of Last Resort. That story launched us into a dark and tortured world still trying to recover from a centuries old war that shattered kingdoms and loosed all types of evil upon the lands. Now such magical beings as giants, werewolves, trolls, goblins, necromancers, wraiths, and many other unworldly beings are assisting the humans to search out and destroy the evil remnants of that war still looking to overthrow human rule. Of Last Resort introduced us to the Princes of the Blood. Human but with the right amount of demon blood running in their veins through intermarriage, the few found that met the requirements were tested, and if successful were forever changed into Princes of the Blood, supernatural beings that feed on blood and helped protect the King and his realm. It was a powerful tale told mostly from the point of view of Raffe’ who became a Prince of the Blood and his lover Algrin. Once at the end, the reader just needed to know more. More about all the characters Megan Derr introduced us to in her story but also more of the ongoing quests to search out and destroy all the leftover demons and evil forces that still remain.
Now ordinarily we might expect the second story in the series to pick up where the first left off, but Megan Derr has something far different in mind for this series. The second story, With Pride, takes place prior to the events in Of Last Resort. In the first story, Raffe’ meets Algrin, a Dragon, and his mated ,deeply in love friends, Hakon and Kristoff, a totally unlikely couple. Hakon, a tiny, blond Prince of the Blood, couldn’t have looked any less a bloodthirsty demon if he had tried. And Kristoff, his besotted husband? A tall imposing Paladin that glowed with holy fervor! How did such an improbable pair come about? With Pride marvelously answers that question as it takes us back to their first disastrous meeting.
One of the first things that charmed me about this story is the change in perspective with regard to the Princes of the Blood. Raffe’ looked forward to becoming a Prince in lieu of his brother who disappeared prior to the testing. For Raffe, being a Prince meant a release from a life and future he never wanted. To be a Prince of the Blood if, big if, you passed the test, was the ultimate goal for Raffe, one he never felt he was good enough for. Definitely not the case for Hakon and Kristoff, a pair of reluctant and bitter participants from the beginning.
Kristoff, again the first point of view here, loves his family, home, and ruling mother. Kristoff is content with his role as a Paladin as well as that of a lessor son within his ruling family. He is so happy with his status quo that he knows nothing of his older brother’s future role as fiance to a Prince of the Blood, only that they are somewhat monstrous and drink blood to live. And as he fights demons and monsters as a Paladin, his ignorance about the Princes is not something he is curious to inspect further. Until a sister’s illness means a shuffle in the expected futures of himself and his siblings. Now he is the one to marry a Prince and he fears it like nothing else in his life. Only his honor and that of his family keeps him from fleeing back to his kingdom. Kristoff is full of complexities, including his belief that he is a coward and is in constant pain due to an allergy to demons he is not aware of.
And then there is Hakon, your second pov. Your and Kristoff’s first perception of him is that of a fierce yet supremely offensive mite. He’s white blond, delicate, and super tiny. Not one to inspire confidence on first contact. Yet his overwhelmingly obnoxious demeanor more than makes up for a lack of height. Like a noxious unassuming weed, there is much more to Hakon than is apparent. To go into Hakon’s background is to spoil some of the best elements of this story but I will say that like Kristoff, Hakon too was an unwilling participant in this marriage as well as in the choice to be a Prince of the Blood. By the time the book is halfway through, your opinion of Hakon and his of Kristoff will have done a complete changeover. Yes, he’s not thrilled about Kristoff being his fiance either. Misperceptions and misunderstandings abound throughout to our horror and delight.
A story rich in texture and with an almost encyclopedic wealth of details is a hallmark of a Megan Derr fantasy novel. With Pride is another magical addition to the great fantasy reads that has come from this author. Inside the pages we meet characters who must dig deep to find the best of themselves in order to triumph over overwhelming odds and almost certain destruction. There is an abundance of pain, deaths of innocents, and treachery. And to accompany that all, there will be glorious adventures, powerful battles, a dragon or two, dark magic, and of course, a troubled and tortured path to true love.
Ah, the romance. Well, to be truthful there isn’t as much of it as I would have loved. It takes some time for each character to overcome their assumptions and misperceptions about each other. That’s a great thing because those are some toweringly poor judgements each one of them has made of each other. And when they finally do get together it ends a little quickly without delivering a little more of a satisfying look at the future of Kristoff and Hakon.
Or least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized we already had that. We just didn’t realize it at the time. It’s in the first story Of Last Resort! And that realization sent me running back to that novel and a fully married Hakon and Kristoff. And its that little detail that made this story and it’s ending all the more gratifying.
Now I have two stories to reread while I am waiting for the author to release the third book in the series, In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3). At the heart of this story is Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen and Korin: descendant of the Reach of the House, heir to the High Priest of the Temple of the Sacred Three. In Despair works the series backward even further to the time where Prince Telme’ and Korin detest each other even while being betrothed since birth. I can’t wait! After the scenes of them lovingly together and hauntingly apart in the first two tales, I am left deliciously in suspense as to their beginnings and romance. It should be quite a tale!
All three books can be read in any order but it is quirky and totally amazing to watch the couples, romances and events move backward. This and the first story are must reads for me. If you are a lover of fantasy and m/m romance, they will be a must read for you too. Consider With Pride one of Scattered Thoughts highly recommended stories and on our Best of 2014 lists.
Stories in the Princes of the Blood series are:
Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1)
With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2)
In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3) expected release July 2014
Cover art by Aisha Akeju. It really references a major plot of the story. Dark and lovely.
ebook, LT3 Link
Expected publication: April 16th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleWith Pride
seriesPrinces of Blood
Covers of the Books in the Series include: