Books Book Review: The Raven Prince and Other Stories, by Jean-Paul Whitehall
Book Review: The Raven Prince and Other Stories, by Jean-Paul Whitehall
EW Elaine White
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About the Author
Jean-Paul is, as they say, older than dirt. The stories in The Raven Princecollection are the first YA he’s written, although he’s been reading YA since before it was well-known genre. He’s been a Tamora Pierce addict pretty much as long as she’s been writing. He has some YA stories in progress, like “Prospero’s Zipper” and “The Day After” but has no idea when another collection might be ready. He lives in the Midwest with two elderly rescue dogs—the Peke (Max), and Australian Shepherd mix (Lucky Dog)—and the recent addition of a younger Rottweiler mix (Rocky).
December 18, 2017
some stories contain instances/references/explorations of: bullying, homophobia, bloody fights, underage (consensual) sexual situations and threats of rape.
Our Lady of the Axe: In a Regency England where magic used to be real, Eleanor, her dear friend Diana, and three young girls are kidnapped. It will take all of Eleanor’s strength and courage, plus a magical axe and cleavage (not that kind) to set them free, and foil the man behind the kidnapping.
Edging: Will a mistake about meaning make a mess for Tommy and Vince? Or maybe lead to something more?
The Plan That Didn’t Gang Aft Agley: Jack’s plans have a tendency to go way agley. He hopes his special plan for Billy at football practice is the one that won’t.
Family Be Damned: Look for the two Br’er Rabbit moments. One: She wasn’t unhappy Tommy got paid to take her to the eighth grade dance. She even slipped him $25 to agree. Two: Her mom made her older brother take her to the dance. The $50 she paid him was just a sisterly bonus.
The Raven Prince: Sixteen-year-old Mike hopes he can blend in at his new school. Except he’s short, slender, goth-looking with the shiny black hair, black eyes and thick lashes, wears an elegant suit and tie, and drives a Mercedes convertible. He’s also gay, a raven shifter in a human school and eventually he has to be the Raven Prince.
Standing up to the bullies who rule the school—Preacher’s Son, Banker’s Son, Sheriff’s Son, Principal’s Daughter—isn’t blending in. When the Four can’t get to Mike, they go after him through his best friend, Johnny, the devoutly straight wrestling star who doesn’t care about the gay thing.
If Johnny is hurt, will it take the Raven Prince to get justice? Raven justice?
100% of the author’s royalties will be donated to a local LGBT youth organization.
Cover – Great!
Would I read it again – YES!
Genre – FF, MM, Romance, Fantasy, Anthology, Historical, Contemporary
Triggers – some stories contain instances/references/explorations of: bullying, homophobia, bloody fights, underage (consensual) sexual situations and threats of rape.
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
The Raven Prince and Other Stories is a charity anthology (100% proceeds going to a LGBT youth charity) that packs an immediate punch. Weaving together historical and fantasy tales, with magic, romance and YA-appropriate experiences and feelings, the writing sweeps you away into another word right from page one.
At the root of every story, at the heart of every relationship, is friendship. And, in this era, where romances can be fleeting and love not always ever-lasting, it's especially important to embrace and remember the friendships that have lasted and helped us move through each struggle that comes out way.
Our Lady of the Axe
POV: 1st person, one character
Theme: Historical, Regency England, marriage, FF, Magic
Triggers: rape threats, scenes of blood/gore,
This was an amazing story. Right from the start, Eleanor was a little girl with a big future, a girl who didn't quite fit into the proper ways of young women in Regency England. The story progresses through three important periods of her life: questioning a family legacy as a young girl, finding out the secrets of the family legacy as a young lady, and then facing the horrible fate of a marriage to someone she didn't like, as a young woman.
Through these experiences, we see Eleanor grow and become braver, become stronger, and start to find her way in her own life. When she's kidnapped by ruffians who are being paid to ensure her marriage to a big-headed Duke, things begin to really ramp up excitement wise. There are the historically accurate, if horrifying to think about, threats of rape towards young girls, one as young as seven, but thankfully nothing ever happens to them and they don't even remember the incident, later.
With magic, a sweet thread of FF romance, and a whole lot of strong women, this story is a great start to the book, but also a really great read. I loved Eleanor and I loved the journey she went on, finding strength from within and learning to view life in a different way to the way she'd been raised.
“He was still holding my hand as he led me to the settee. I was too ladylike to knee him between his legs to retrieve it.”
POV: 1t person, present tense, one character
Theme: Contemporary, Teen Romance, Edging, Fear of Heights, Established Couple, MM
This was a really cute story about how one word can have two different meanings to two different people. Although it was cute and funny, it did revolve around two guys who were only 15, so I felt more like a pervy adult spying on kids – which is icky – than I would have felt if they were older. I had to squint real hard and just think of them as immature 20-year-olds. There is a lot of sex talk, about boners and what experience the two guys have with each other, and I think teens would appreciate the honesty and relatability of it, so I'm giving it bonus points for that. For an adult – squishy. For a teen – perfect teen comedy in a short bite.
“I figure if this works out, when we get really old, like thirty or something, I'll tell him he coulda had my boner and the rest of me at “Vince, I'm gay,” and not wasted a whole damn year.”
The Plan That Didn't Gang Aft Agley
POV: 1st person, present tense, one character
Theme: Contemporary, Teen Romance, MM
Ugh, the cuteness is off the charts!
I'll admit that I was confused about location, at first, as both previous stories took place in the UK and this one has a Robert Burns quote at the start. But, it takes place in Dallas, which made sense of some of the setting details.
Again, it has that teen speech that was in the previous story, but to a lesser extent. And, again, it has two 15 – almost 16 – year olds, so feels a little uncomfortable when they talk about all the sex stuff and boners etc. But, again, it would make a fantastic read for a teenager. The cuteness, the romance, the relateability and the contemporary setting all make for a great teen story.
“I'm looking at you, William Robert “Don't you effing dare call me Billy-Bob” Jones.
I like looking at you, Billy-Bob. I don't tell you often enough.”
Family Be Damned
POV: 3rd person person, dual character
Theme: Contemporary, School Dance, FF, Teen Romance
Adorable. Perfect. Just right.
I love that we got to see both girls as they got ready for the school dance, and how they managed to make it happen according to their plans. I love that both sets of parents were worried about Big Tony and all the rumours about him, yet he didn't even look at either girl and they weren't looking at him.
Really cute, adorable, lovely story.
“She looked around. Smiled. Yes!”
The Raven Prince
POV: 1st person, one character
Theme: Contemporary, High School, Bullying, Homophobia, MM, Friendship, Shifter
Triggers: Bullying, Homophobia
Wow. I barely know what to say. It's been a while since a story left me this speechless.
Powerful. Heart-wrenching. Equally beautiful and sad. It makes you stop and think, and cry, and breathe, and wonder...and not stop reading.
If there is one thing I can say before I get into the bones of the story, is it that you CANNOT stop reading at Fin. This story has so many P.S.'s that I lost count. And each and every one of them is more important than the rest. Even the last one. Because, yes, it all applied to me. Even the last, poignant message “Wipe your eyes at the beauty of life, love, and Ravens of Unusual Size, and go!”
I'm crying while writing this, just as I've been crying while reading it. And don't think I didn't love the 'The Princess Bride' references.
This story is about bullying, yes. But it's also about strength, friendship, love, resilience in the face of fear, justice, the power of lies, strength in numbers, and revenge. It's about facing the truth, no matter how hard it might be. About finding strength within yourself to do what is right, even if it's hard. It's about standing up for yourself, and others, because no matter how small an act of bullying might be, allowing it continue unchecked can lead to untethered escalation, until the consequences are so dire that no one involved can remember how it got that far.
I have to give a shout out to the author for the warnings. Not only at the beginning of the story, about how hard it might be to read about bullying, but also the warnings throughout, that told me I could just skip to the next chapter, or avoid reading the next bit, if I was going to have issues with it. As someone who is a major 'book trigger' advocate, I heartily thank you for those warnings.
However, I kept reading and I'm an emotional mess right now, because of it. Because, what came after hurt, was painful to read, and hit me where it hurts, but was so, so important. I can't stress enough how IMPORTANT it is for people – adults, too, but especially teenagers – to read stories like this and realise the serious impact and consequences that bullying, or even ignoring bullying going on around you, can have. That lies spread quicker than the truth and are more likely to be believed. That words are a real weapon, just as real as any gun or locker or knife.
I can't think of a more adapt phrase than “I remember...” because, it's the truth. People who are bullied or who have witnessed severe bullying, will never forget it. People who are impacted by bullying in any way, will NEVER forget it. They always remember. And the most important thing that anyone who reads this book can do is...remember. Remember the pain. Remember the love that fought through it. Remember the injustices. And remember that words are humanity's most vicious and most frequently used weapons. We wield them without thinking and they always hit their mark. And just as physical injuries can't be undone, words can't be taken back.
I remember...and I will never forget. This story, the impact it has, or the lessons it can teach us all.
I honestly couldn't pick one. It was hard enough to get it limited to these four.
“I am the master of my face. I am the captain of my cock.
I lost control of both in English class.”
“I decided I'd enjoy what I had while I had it, and when I didn't have it any more...I'd cope.”
“I'll make sure there's a do-no-mpreg-the-Raven-Prince clause in the unwritten contract before I agree to serve.”
“Please remember...if a bird shits on you, don't get angry. Pause. Think about what you did to deserve it. And mend your ways.
Birds are, as you now know, instruments of justice.”
While I enjoyed each and every story that was contained in this collection, the first and last had the most lasting impacts on me. I would so happily read more stories about Eleanor, the brave, independent young woman, who kicked ass and took names. But, most especially, Mike stole my heart. I'm not sure when I last read a story that impacted me the way 'The Raven Prince' did, but I sure as heck would want to read more. I want Mike to be happy, to see more of Lisa's writing endeavours, and to check in at least one more time, to make sure that he gets his happily ever after. Even if it can't be with Johnny.
While this collection is generally about love, I also feel that it's just as equally about friendship. Every couple here were friends before they became anything more. Their friendship led them through hardships, through trials and heartache. Those friendships helped them fight and change and shift into new, stronger, better people.
If this is how his short stories feel, then this is definitely an author I want to read more from.
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