The short blurb bit: Prince Gerald lives in a world that is about to get very uncomfortable for him. Once a person turns eighteen in the Thousand Kingdoms, they must find a spouse. This search for a life partner takes place in the form of an unusual quest. Everyone must choose whether they will head out to rescue another Prince/Princess/Princex or be put in a tower guarded by a mystical creature and be rescued. It’s all quite civilized. Once the choice is made, the names of all involved are published and the matchmaking begins.
The problem for Prince Gerald is that he’s not interested in being married. He’s never had so much as a crush on someone and refused to participate in the entire ritual! When Gerald continues to refuse to choose his role, his mothers choose for him and he is magically zipped to a tower where he is guarded by a Dragon.
Gerald doesn’t give up though! He figures out a way to release his Dragon guardian and they team up with Omar (whom they rescue accidentally) and the three of them embark on an adventure to try to change their world.
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The descriptive bit: Oh this book was a delight! Consider it to be a modern fairy tale with a little bit a Lord of the Rings feel at times.
If you’re looking for an inclusive and diverse world to read about, this will be a good choice for you. Even though the folks living in this world struggle with understanding that Gerald is asexual/aromantic, there are same-sex couples, its common practice for people to rescue or be rescued by whomever they fancy regardless of gender! What fun!
There are two main storylines in the book. Gerald is on a path of self-discovery… in a way. He understands on a gut level how different he is from everyone else around him, but throughout a lot of the book, he struggles with understanding himself in terms of the way other people see him.
The second storyline is about changing the ancient traditions in the Kingdom. Fond of animals, Gerald cooks up a plan to change things for the magical creatures who are being held captive. He wants to rescue all the Guardians, recruit other Royals to join him then come up with a plan to change the way people find their life partners.
My thoughts bit: There are some great things in this book. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the magical world the characters lived in. There were some really clever things, like a two-way magical parchment for keeping in touch, and some clever world-building around spell casting. Dragon is a lovely side-kick on Gerald and Omar’s adventures. He is often the voice of reason and one of the first souls in the book to befriend Gerald in a way that makes him comfortable.
Gerald’s friendship with Omar is sweet. I loved the way their relationship progressed during the course of the book. When they meet, Omar is also fighting the tradition that has been forced upon him. As the two young men get to know one another, there are some remarkable discussions about asexuality. Omar is patient and concerned because his feelings for Gerald are growing. They have some speed bumps along the way but work towards understanding what each other want.
I really enjoyed this book!! The author did a wonderful job of creating a believable world and ensuring that some really sensitive and complex issues were dealt with sensitively and thoroughly.
The warnings bit: Cruelty to animals (magical creatures), discrimination in many forms – primarily against the aromantic/ asexual main character. Suicidal ideation. Anxiety and Depression. Physical disability after extreme burn injury.
I received an ARC of this book by A. Alex Logan from NineStar Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.