Review: In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

In Despair coverSixteen year old Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen has been groomed to become a Prince of the Blood and take over as Commander of the Legion.  Equally young Korin is heir to the Reach of the House and the Temple of the Sacred Three. Expectations run high for him as well since it has been foretold that he will be the next High Priest.  Telme’ and Korin are also engaged to each other, an unfortunate affair since neither boy can stand the other.  Between the constant fighting and endless quarreling, the Halls of Castle Guldbrandsen have been ringing with shouts of anger and  fists hitting flesh instead of calm and the silence of boys at their studies to the displeasure of the royal family and all the others around them.

Monsters and dark mages left over from the last war lurk all around the kingdoms.  Princes of the Blood, and their fellow supernatural beings are the only things that stand between them and the remainder of humankind.  But humans that will allow their children to be tested to see if they have the right percentage of Demon blood are few as are pure blooded humans.  When found, they are brought to the Castle Guldbrandsen for testing and to strengthen ties through marriage.  Just such an happening at Castle Guldbrandsen ends in a devastating and unthinkable event, leaving those still standing awash in grief and anger.  Telme’ and Korin are Castle Guldbrandsen’s last hope but can they put aside their distrust and personal hatred long enough to save the kingdom and each other in the bargain?

In Despair marks the end of the Princes of the Blood trilogy by Megan Derr and I am so sad to get to the end of this marvelous tale of love, loss, and magic.  From the beginning, Megan Derr made the fascinating and quirky decision to write this trilogy backwards.  The first book, Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1) takes place towards the end of the trilogy’s timeline, and each book thereafter moves the story back towards the beginning years and the history that is only hinted at in the first book.  It’s a challenging and imaginative format and its has worked beautifully here.

In Despair starts out with the characters in deep despair, a state that will follow them into the past.  Telme’ stands at the bedside of Koren who is terribly wounded from his fight with an angel from Of Last Resort.  That momentous battle came at the end of the first story and it left Koren in a coma.  Now as the trilogy comes to an end, Derr puts us down at Castle Guldbreandsen to get at glimpse at the lives of those impacted by that battle.  While Telme’ waits at Koren’s bedside, he remembers back to when they were teenagers and at odds with each other.  And from that time on, In Despair  starts its own tale of war, black magic, loss and love.

Megan Derr is one of my favorite fantasy authors.  In the Princes of the Blood trilogy she weaves together romance, action, adventure, fantasy and magic into stories that both the YA and adult readers will love.  As with all her stories, we start off with some amazing world building.  From Castle Guldbrandsen whose rulers have a very close connection to demons as well as all the fantasy beings that make up the incredible magic protectors of the realm,  the army of mixed-blood beings known as the King’s Legion: dragoons, shadowmarch, sorcerers, titans…and of course, the Princes of the Blood.  Derr has folded so many rich details and layers into this world.  The trilogy starts after a cataclysmic war has occurred that brought forth all sorts of demons and set them loose in the world almost destroying it.    While the war ended centuries ago, the aftermath has left demons scattered throughout the kingdoms, the human population with varying degrees of demon blood in them due to intermarriage, and necromancers others still trying to reopen the door’s to hell and start the war all over again. And with each story, Derr reveals more about the past through the characters battles in the present time and their interactions with each other.

In Despair is a standout from the other two stories in the trilogy in a number of ways.  First, the characters here are the youngest of all the main characters whose tales and romance unfold in these three books.  Telme’ and Koren are but sixteen (with Koren slightly younger than Telme’).  Telme’ and Koren exhibit all the stubbornness, impetuousness, and capriciousness of youth.   Quick to anger, unable to communicate, and equally quick to assume hurt and humiliation, these two young boys yet have the weight of the kingdom on their shoulders.  Both are expected to assume two of the highest positions in Castle Guldbrandsen and neither has the maturity or knowledge needed to make that leap to power and responsibility.  Sullenness and fights are the rule for both as are misunderstandings and punishment.  Derr makes both boys come across so real, so human in their insecurities, pain, and anger.  It is easy for the reader to see both sides of the picture for each teenager because it is such a recognizable stage of human growth.  Between hormones and pushing back against parental expectations, Telme  appears not only “bratty” as the adults term him but overwhelmed by the responsibilities he doesn’t want to assume.  And the reader gets that too, particularly as becoming a Prince of the Blood means turning into a demon or half demon at a young age.  By his behavior Telme has delayed the test but time is running out.  Derr makes both boys so young in their mental and emotional development that we connect with them easily.  Then she jerks their foundations out from under them and the tale really gets underway.

As with all marvelous coming of age stories that include high adventure and fantasy, it must also include the darkness of evil and absolute loss.  As Castle Guldbrandsen falls under the destructive powers of both, Telme’ and Koren must pull together, grow up (somewhat) and assume the duties they have been avoiding.  It’s a timeless, dramatic concept and Derr’s treatment of it and her characters growth is as compelling as they come.   That’s possible because no matter what challenges these boys face or hurdles they must overcome, they remain the teenagers they are.  They still make poor judgement calls, make assumptions about each other and the events that occur that adults with more experience would disregard, and suffer from the lack of practical knowledge and maturity that age would have given them.  I love that there is no “instant adult” changeover in persona.  No, these are still kids trying to fill adult shoes and mostly succeeding  to mixed reviews from the grownups around them.  How can you not empathize with a sixteen year old who has just kind of “saved the day” only to come back to adults who don’t like the way he did it?  As an adult, you can see both sides but the teenager in you will be just as dumbfounded and angry as Telme’ is. That’s one of the real beauties of this story and this trilogy,  Megan Derr tells it in such a way that we believe so deeply in these characters and their lives that we can see all sides to every argument and still come down on the side of youth and fragility no matter our own age.

At the end, Megan Derr brings the story back around to the time of the first story, Of Last Resort, with Telme’ still waiting to see if Koren lives.  Her circle is complete, and her trilogy is almost over.  All the characters from all three stories appear and their stories resolved in scenes and mentions of events happening inside the castle.  Did I love the way In Despair ended?  Absolutely.  Do I recommend In Despair and the entire Princes of the Blood trilogy?  Without question.

Of Last Resort, With Pride and In Despair will all be at the top of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014 lists this year.  Check them all out but read them in the order that Derr wrote them.  It will make for some magical reading and leave you sighing for more at the end.  Just like me.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju who is quickly becoming a new favorite artist of mine.

Buy Links:           Less Than Three Press              ARe                 Amazon               In Despair

 

Book Details:

ebook
Published July 9th 2014 by Less Than Three Press
original titleIn Despair
ISBN139781620043233
edition languageEnglish
seriesPrinces of the Blood #3

Princes of the Blood Series include (written in reverse sequence)

Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1)
With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2)
In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3)

Cover Reveal, Contest, & More! The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charlie Descoteaux

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BirdsBadgeOrangeQ   Check out the gorgeous cover of The Nesting Habits of 

Strange Birds along with a blurb and excerpt below!!!

Author: Charley Descoteaux

Cover:  D.W. Skinner (photographer), Paul Richmond (designer)

Dreamspinner Press

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Pre-orders and The Trevor Project by Charlie Descoteaux

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First I’d like to thank Pride Promotions for arranging this tour, ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords for inviting me to visit their lovely space, and D.W. Skinner and Paul Richmond for my gorgeous cover!

I’ve been writing for a long time, but The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds is the first full-length novel I get to share with the world. During all the years I spent writing, and dreaming of the day when I could say I am a novelist, I also made plans.

I don’t set out to write political or message novels, but after growing up in the Bay Area in the 70s and spending my share of time in the trenches, it’s hard to separate the activist from the author. Like many other writers, I have trunk novels that will probably never see the light of day (you’re welcome ;)). Each of those trunk novels included a plan for giving a portion of any earnings to a relevant charity.

The two main characters in The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds, Phil and Lee, have both been touched by depression and suicide—and since The Trevor Project is one of my favorite national charities, it seemed like a good fit.

I’ll donate $1 for every pre-order of The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds to The Trevor Foundation, in support of their efforts to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

Visit my blog for a running tally of pre-orders. I’ll update the tally every few days, and post the final total on August 11.

Thank you all for helping me raise awareness, and a little cash, for this very worthwhile cause!

Pre-order The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds through Dreamspinner Press. [Link]

Contest:  Rafflecopter Prize: E-Copy of the book when it comes out.  Use the link provided below to enter the contest.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press    eBook          Paperback

Book Name: The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds

Author Name: Charley Descoteaux
Author Bio:
Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they let her sleep once in a while. Home is Portland, Oregon, where the weather is like your favorite hard-case writing buddy who won’t let you get away with taking too many days off, and in some places you can be as weird as you are without fear. As an out and proud bisexual and life-long weird-o, she thinks that last part is pretty cool.

Rattle my cages, I’d love to hear from you!

Author Links:

Cover Artist: D.W. Skinner (photographer), Paul Richmond (designer)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover The Nesting Habits of Strange BirdsBlurb:

All he ever wanted was to be a normal guy….

Phil Brask spends his days in the basement of his mentor’s Victorian home, converting legal documents into electronic format. When the pipe feeding the water heater bursts, Lee Redding arrives in the plumber’s truck and draws Phil away from the narrow focus of his computer and camera lens. Lee gives Phil hope for a life beyond the walls he’s constructed using the nesting habits of migratory birds and dense legal files, a guided tour through a world filled with romance and music…maybe even family. But there’s a reason Phil retreated behind those walls, why he panics at a simple touch.

Lee has a good life—working with his uncle and on his mother’s farm, playing bass in a horrible metal band, and hooking up when he pleases—but he’s always suspected something was missing. When he meets the hot photographer with the icy-blue eyes, he knows exactly what that something is. Phil isn’t like other guys, but neither is Lee beneath his carefree exterior. Maybe Lee’s the perfect guy to show Phil that everything doesn’t have to be done the hard way and “home” isn’t a four-letter word.

 

 

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Excerpt:

“Your pictures, they’re amazing.” Lee said, his voice calm and steady and filled with sincere awe. “What’s this in her beak?”

Lee carefully scrolled forward, and Phil realized Lee had thumbed through all the pictures from that morning and some from last evening as well. He’d been out of it longer than he thought.

“It’s a spiderweb. Hummingbirds use them to build their nests.”

Two sentences. Phil couldn’t remember when he’d last gotten two sentences out just the way he’d intended. He smiled and raised his eyes to Lee’s. They seemed to mirror what he was feeling. Relief; happiness; desire. The next thing he knew, Lee’s lips brushed his lightly. Phil trembled but didn’t pull away. Pride in his perfect speech along with the giddy feeling inspired by Lee’s smile allowed Phil to give in to desire, just for a moment, to take a chance it would end well. Lee leaned toward him, but not so their shoulders touched, and kissed him just a few seconds longer. He kept his mouth almost completely closed, but Phil tasted a hint of hot chocolate. Or maybe the heat came from Lee.

“Whoa,” Lee sighed as much as said.

Birds600x600BannerOrangeQTour Dates: 7/11/14
Tour Stops:
Parker Williams, Hearts on Fire, Emotion in Motion, Love Bytes, My Fiction Nook, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Jade Crystal, Smoocher’s Voice, Full Moon Dreaming, Lee Brazil, Wake Up Your Wild Side, Iyana Jenna, Amanda C. Stone, Tara Lain, Redz World, Because Two Men Are Better Than One, Fallen Angel Reviews, Romance the Night, Velvet Panic, Kimi-Chan, The Hat Party, MM Good Book Reviews, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Lee Brazil, Decadent Delights, Havan Fellows, Kimber Vale, EE Montgomery, Michael Mandrake, Cate Ashwood, Dawn’s Reading Nook
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