Astrin Raphael wakes up in a strange place, frightened and confused. He is told to trust someone who seems to hate him, and he tries—he really tries. However, things change rapidly when he discovers his friend is actually his archenemy, Rowan Gabriel, whose abusive behavior stems from a deeply ingrained, if unwarranted, hatred over something that happened many years before, and simply wasn’t Astrin’s fault. When Rowan's uncle and Astrin's father are kidnapped by Strebo Michael, the two crown princes are catapulted into an adventure that forces them to work together, and along the way their feelings for each other grow. Rowan is quick to let his hate go, but Astrin can’t release his inhibitions. It takes Astrin almost dying from a poisoned dagger before he finally accepts Rowan's love. When they return home, their problems continue as their Houses try to negotiate a way for the young men to be together. It soon becomes clear at least one of them will need to relinquish his throne.
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Tropes: Enemy to Ally, Evolving Powers, Past People/Future Tech, Quest
Word Count: 118337
Setting: Alternate reality
“But why do I have to do it again? Why can’t Melissa take her turn?”
“Because Melissa has her own tasks to perform. She does not complain.”
“You know I do my duty, Uncle Charles, but this… this is too much. I’m sick of nurse-maiding that useless piece of crap. I’ve wiped his vomit, cleaned his shit, and—”
“I get the picture, Rowan. You don’t like this particular duty, just as I haven’t liked many of the duties required of me over the years. You are a prince, so duty is your middle name.”
“My middle names are Barrett, Raeden, and Colen. I don’t see anything like ‘duty’ in there.”READ MORE
“We’ve had this conversation before, Rowan. Nothing has changed. You are Crown Prince of House Gabriel and the Northern Territories. When you come of age, you will become king. It is my duty to ensure firstly that you have a kingdom to inherit—one that is not torn by war—and secondly that you are fit to be king. Carrying out this duty diligently and with grace will help achieve both.”
Rowan rolled his eyes. “And how, precisely, will feeding and cleaning a drooling imbecile help me become a better king?”
“It will help you become a better man. And don’t forget whom you are speaking of. He, too, is a crown prince, and as such, worthy of respect.”
Rowan’s lip curled. “Respect?” he spat out. “The day I respect that… that….” Blazing-hot anger stole his words. He shook his head, grinding his teeth.
“You will respect him, Rowan. At the moment Astrin is the only thing that stands between us and ruin. We cannot win the war with his father, and holding him is the only thing that keeps King Hersten at the negotiating table.”
“I would never negotiate with them. Astrin and his father are animals—worse than that. I’d spit on both of them if I had the chance.”
“I appreciate you are angry about this, Rowan, but you cannot allow your personal feelings to dictate your actions. As a prince, you do not have that luxury. And as king you certainly won’t.”
“When I am king, I will kill that simpering pretty boy, then lead our armies to the Heart of the West and cut down his father too.”
“Calm yourself, Rowan. That is impossible, and if you would only think about it logically, you would see it for yourself. We are in no position to sustain the war with House Raphael. It has been raging for more than twenty years, depleting our resources, emptying our treasury, and robbing us of many of our strongest men and women—including your parents.”
Growling, Rowan frowned at his uncle. “And that’s precisely why I hate that bitch Astrin and his whole family. They killed my parents.”
“You know that is not the case. His father gave the order to attack the convoy, but it was with a view to do exactly what we have now done to his son—to take them hostage, not to kill them. As for Astrin, he was only two years old.”
“That doesn’t make any difference.”
“Yes, I think it does. You cannot blame the boy for what his parents did. One day he will be king of the Western Kingdoms and you of the Northern Territories. As allies, you will have a sound base for consolidating, and ensuring peace, in almost three quarters of the entire planet. As enemies, you will eventually tear each other apart and destroy your Houses in the process.
“Even you cannot deny that the peace we have bought with Astrin’s captivity has been of enormous benefit to us. We have already strengthened our borders and withdrawn our casualties to mainstream hospitals. We’ve saved lives, stabilized our economy, and been able to filter some of our resources into social regeneration. Even now it would take a very long time for our empire to recover from the war.
“Your people are suffering, Rowan. Life is grim, especially in the West. Your subjects are crying out to you for help, and the only way you can give it to them is by ending this war and using the resources to shore up the crumbling society the war has created. If you do not end this war, then not only will you lose it… you’ll also lose the faith and support of your own people. At the moment they are looking to you to be their savior. You are the Golden Prince, the Great Hope. If you fail them, they will have nothing to hope for, and they will either turn on you or crumble to dust before your eyes.”COLLAPSE
Hostages have been used for various purposes over the centuries, and on the Earth-like planet this story is set on, the practice has been continued into the future. With four Houses fighting for dominance, two of them close to war because of an old misunderstanding, there is lots of conflict and animosity to go around. In principle everyone wants peace, but when it comes to the actual negotiation and compromising stage, it’s all suddenly a lot more difficult. Sound familiar?
Prince Astrin’s situation is a particularly difficult one. He has been taken hostage by House Gabriel, to force his father into negotiating a peace treaty. He has been placed into a coma to avoid him escaping, and is memories have been erased. Pretty brutal, but his captors think it’s necessary. When he is awakened, he has no idea whom to trust, and doesn’t have any idea that all of the awful things Prince Rowan tells him are untrue. This is not a good start to a relationship that is supposed to be turned into the basis for a future peace treaty!
Prince Rowan hates Astrin and his whole house with a vengeance. They killed his parents, and he will never forgive them. So when his uncle orders him to take care of Prince Astrin (in a bid to let them become friends), he does his very best to be horrible and insulting. He succeeds. But as time passes, he begins to see Astrin as a human being, and things change radically when they go on a mission to save Rowan’s parents and figure out who the real bad guys are.
This novel is wonderful for many reasons. Astrin and Rowan are great characters, and though they begin as enemies, they gradually grow closer as they grow up and begin to see the world less from their own personal points of view and more as the adults they are becoming. Their adventures are action-packed, but the emotional exploration is just as important. And the setting, twists and turns, and many revelations held me captivated and made this an excellent read.
If you’re looking for a great coming of age story, if you prefer slightly futuristic settings with young men who face seemingly insurmountable odds, and if you’re looking for an emotional read that is filled with action, adventure, wonderful humor, and the beginnings of love, then you will probably like this novel.