What is this novel about?
Prince Gerald wants to live without marriage and sex. Yet he was born as one of the princes of the Thousand Kingdoms, where all princes, princesses, and princexes must begin participating in a royal rescue at the age of eighteen and be married by their early twenties. Gerald’s mother will only let him choose whether he wants to be a rescuer or a rescuee. After he refuses both roles, he wakes up to find that he has been magically transported to a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon in the middle of an inhospitable desert so that he can be ‘rescued’ by his future spouse.
He needs to rescue himself to avoid being ‘rescued’. But that might not be enough. In order to secure his freedom, Gerald might have to dismantle the entire system of young royals rescuing other young royals. If the royal rescues keep on happening, not only will Gerald be trapped, but many others will continue to be trapped in a much crueller manner.
What sexual and/or violent content does this novel contain?
There is discussion of sex, including references to characters having sex off-page, but there is no on-page sex (not even fade to black). There is violence, including putting collars on the necks of children, which cause wounds, infections, and pain as they grow older yet the collar doesn’t grow bigger with them. And a character badly burns another character, causing severe injuries (and detailed descriptions of the burn injuries). Weapons with blades also are used to injure others.
Tell me more about this novel.
I think the setting – a standardized fairy-tale world with explicit inclusion of queer characters – is fantastic. I would like to see more stories set in the Thousand Kingdoms.
The beginning of the book was really good, and I was excited to continue reading. However, it really started to drag in the middle. Basically, the problem I had was that things were going too smoothly for Prince Gerard. Yes, I know [thing] happens to him in the middle, but [thing] doesn’t really impede his plans very much, and a lot of characters were more cooperative than I expected. For example, when the Council members showed up, I expected one of them to be Gerald’s mother because it would have been Gerald’s worst nightmare, very dramatic, and thus awesome. But no, the council members turned out to be completely new characters, and they were a lot more accommodating than I expected. At one point, I even considered making this a Did Not Finish book.
But I’m glad that I persisted, because the final chapter is excellent, and did much to redeem the story. So, if you read this, and find that it’s dragging in the middle, I recommend that you at least read the ending.
I also notice that this is a book put out by a small queer publisher, and I notice quite a few stories from small queer publishers tend to reduce the resistance the protagonists experience as they try to reach their goals. I’ve seen it so much that I suspect it may be editorial policy, which may mean that it helps sell books. If underplaying the obstacles the protagonists face helps sell queer fiction, well, the publishers have to make enough sales to survive.
Also, Dragon is a great character, and contributed much to the story. Here is an example:
“Now that you can talk,” Gerald said, “can I ask what your name is? I don’t want to keep calling you ‘the dragon’.”
“Why not?” it asked. “That’s what I am.”
“Well, it seems rude, you know. I mean, I wouldn’t like it if you called me ‘the human’. I have a name, I like people to use it.”
“I have no objection to being called Dragon,” it assured him. “It fits and it’s not rude to me. Dragons are fairly solitary creatures; we don’t have a great deal of need for names. And when we do use them, well, they’re very draconic. You wouldn’t be able to pronounce what other dragons call me.”
Gerald is asexual and aromantic, though neither of those words are used on-page. It is the crux of the conflict with his family, and by extension, his whole society. Thus, there is a lot of ace and aro content in this story.
I was really hoping that Gerald would run into another ace and/or aro character. In particular, I was wondering if Prince Lukas, who writes very unromantic letters, or Princess Elinore in the Burning Swamp would turn out to be aro and/or ace. But no, Gerald doesn’t meet any other aces or aros (as far as we know, maybe Prince Lukas and/or Princess Elinore actually are ace and/or aro). (Actually, I’m just going to go ahead and headcanon Prince Lukas as aro).
The novel features the following ace tropes: “Not Having Words”, “The Ace Explanation”, “Drawing the No-Sex Line”, and “Unwanted Arranged Marriage”. This is the first example of the “Unwanted Arranged Marriage” trope which features a male ace character that I have found (though Gerald isn’t arranged to marry any specific person, the fact that he is coerced to participate in this marriage system counts IMO). I can’t say this story has an allo/ace romance because the relationship is explicitly non-romantic, but Gerald does form a platonic partnership with an allo character. And though that allo character is not completely sex-avoidant, that allo character doesn’t consider sex to be so great that it is essential to a committed relationship.
Some aspects of Gerald’s ace/aro experience are different from my own, and I did not personally relate, but I know aces / aros with different experiences probably would relate. Some aspects are similar, or at least recognizable, from my own experience. Overall, the ace/aro depiction rings very true, and it is one of the most beautiful parts of the book.
What this written by an ace?
Hey Sara, do you like this novel?
Yes, I do. The premise is really good, and the beginning and the ending are really good. I wish I had read this novel when I was ten years old.
If you want to buy this book, I strongly, strongly recommend that you buy it directly from NineStar Press so that A. Alex Logan will get a bigger royalty payment.