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Defiant Revival by L. Rockwood

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To free the kingdom from the depravity of Cardinal Aldrious, Prince Micah Helvendeere must take his rightful place as ruler.

Unfortunately, the prince has been dead for a year.

Billiam Grimhart, former page to the prince, knows Micah’s assumption of the throne is the last chance to purge Casperland of the cardinal’s corruption. And for that to happen, the prince must be revived. Only one person stands a chance of achieving the nearly impossible: exiled enchantress Shemmy DuBois, a raunchy bog witch with an affinity for corpses and a heart of gold. Billiam sets out to coax Shemmy to their cause, despite what wading through piles of bodies will do to his favorite shoes.

If he can accomplish it, Billiam might finally get to consummate his love for the prince—something Shemmy is keen to witness. But first, they’ll need to steal Micah’s body, brave a land inhabited by vicious faeries, and accept the help of accomplices as vile and perverse as their enemies. They might be far from typical heroes, but sometimes those are the only people who can get the job done.

If you like dark and edgy high-concept fantasy that’s not for those with delicate sensibilities, join Billiam, Shemmy, and their Faelock allies as they stage their revolution.

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Typical Fairytale By L. Rockwood

“What’s your elevator pitch?” asked my brother from across the small booth.

“My what?” I responded while pouring more of the practically molten chile de arbol sauce over my blackened mahi and mango taco.  When planning my trip down to San Diego to visit him, I looked forward to eating at City Tacos nearly as much as seeing Neutral Milk Hotel. Said show was just a few blocks away, but not for another forty-five minutes.

“It’s like if you were riding in an elevator with a big shot and only had a minute to sell him your story, what would you say?” Andrew had known I had been writing and was nearly finished with a novel, but we hadn’t had a chance to talk about it much yet. My newborn nephew was deservedly taking up most of his attention.

“Well, it’s like your classic hero saves the princess story, except the princess, is actually a prince.” I paused for another bite and some dramatic emphasis before continuing, “Oh yeah, and the prince is already dead.”

He gave me his signature, enthusiastic thumbs up, showing me he truly approved before he even spoke. “Nice! It’s like a freaky fairytale. Tell me more.”

That was the first time I realized I had written a fairytale. I knew the basic storyline was familiar, but I had never been a knights and princesses sort of kid growing up. I still, of course, watched all the Disney movies and liked most of them, but I was the kid who idolized Godzilla. So why was this the novel I felt so compelled to write?

I have finally realized why that storyline is so personal to me. The idea of a damsel being saved by a hero doesn’t bring me back to any book or movie. For me, there is no clearer, nor simpler, nor more perfect tale of true love conquering evil than that of Mario rescuing his beloved Princess Peach.

I don’t know if I’d call Super Mario a fairytale, but it definitely is the reference that pops into my head when I think of princess-saving heroes. It does makes sense that I’d go there, though. If you added up all the time my brother and I spent playing Mario games you’d get at least a decade. Its prevalence in my life isn’t the only reason for its importance and the other is much more personal.

Super Mario Brothers means more to me than Sleeping Beauty because I am a transgender man. I didn’t know that when I was kid playing games on Andrew’s bedroom floor. In fact, back then I didn’t think about my own gender at all. It just didn’t seem important to me. I loved playing with my Polly Pockets just as much as my brother’s Mighty Max toys. I would wear his hand-me-down clothes, loved to climb trees, and would even pee outside with him when we’d get the chance. The next day I might be painting my nails or dressing up my American Girl dolls. That’s not to say that liking any of those things has a thing to do with gender, but in the early nineties, it was definitely still a world of only boys toys and girls toys. I only bring it up to make it clear that Mario doesn’t inspire me over the girly Princess Aurora, simply because he is a man or because video games were a “boy thing”.

I just could never relate to being trapped in a tower or waiting for someone’s kiss to save me. I could, however, see myself being the one to save the day. It’s not that I think so highly of myself or that I think I am that brave or have super powers. I just seem to believe I can do the impossible and solve everyone’s problems, which is obviously not always fortuitous.

It’s that heroism I feel inside myself that must’ve driven me to write my own fairytale. I loved and connected to the hero saving his true love more than I even knew and needed to express that. The best part of all was getting to tell this classic kind of story in my own way, i.e. morbid and flaming.

Despite acknowledging that I wrote a fairytale, the classic hero trope is the only thing typically ‘happily ever after’ about Defiant Revival. Even my protagonist, who is honestly an avatar of myself as a hero in many ways, is quite flawed. Billiam is not the bravest character, he is not perfectly masculine, and he doesn’t always make the right choices. My pure and innocent prince is neither of these things and my evil villain has a neatly hidden, but very real soul. My fairytale is one true to me, and thus it as dark as it is magical. Instead of cute birdies singing as a princess brushes her hair, I got to incorporate dancing reanimated bunny corpses. It seems like a fairytale was the perfect vessel for my aesthetic after all, which I describe as creepy/cute.

The amount of gore and dick jokes in Defiant Revival might stop some from seeing the simple, classic tale at it’s core, but that’s okay. I still want to address it’s surprisingly sweet origins and also give props to Mario for being my first hero. Video games can cultivate just as much creativity as all other media and I’m happy to list them as inspirations.


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Excerpt

Chapter 7

May 6th, 989

The faerie wood of Failingveil was the largest that humans had discovered and the only one in the continent of Centra, where Casperland and Alafor resided. Despite being the largest, it was scarcely the size of the royal palace.

The entrance had manifested from rocks and skimpy pines, yet the trees within it were thick and lush. They looked akin to birch trees, with their pale, slender limbs stretching up and intertwining to create a faux ceiling. Their leaves were an unearthly glowing aquamarine with fluorescent pink stems. The ground was the softest dirt their feet had ever touched; it felt like cushiony clay between Shemmy’s bare toes. The grains of it were every color you could think of, but when it was all lying together on the ground, it looked like commonplace brown earth.

The wood was dark, but everything seemed to glow from within. The pathway through the trees was barely two feet wide. Billiam had to prop Micah over his shoulder like a piggyback ride to avoid scratching the prince on any surrounding branches. They walked single file, feeling as though they were in a hallway, as opposed to any sort of woods. They could see no faeries, and all they could hear was a steady breeze, melodically rustling the walls of foliage. The smell of the forest consisted of wet moss, honeysuckle, and something metallic, maybe blood. That odor was thick and could be tasted as they drew their breaths.

After a few minutes of walking, they reached a clearing where the path opened up immensely. In this area, the trees were mixed. Some were the bright birches, but farther in there were other trees that were large and dense, like an oak. Their trunks shined a jet-black and looked smooth like glass. They were studded with tiny yellow leaves, making them look bare even when fully bloomed. A bevy of elms joined the mix as well, elegant trees with common brown trunks but full of purple blooms and orange leaves. Some pale grass grew on one side of the clearing, which showed them in what direction they could expect the spring.

Following the patches of minty blades, they were at the bubbling pool within minutes. The earth around it was damp, thus darker than it was in the rest of the wood. The moisture made it easier to see its true rainbow of colors. Zan looked around fervently to see if there were any natives present, but as far as he could tell, they were still alone.

“Okay, we’ll start with jump startin’ the brain and the heart. We should have him layin’ in front of the pool to begin wif. Once I have those started, we’ll strip him and carry him into the pool with us, so I can revive him piece by piece,” Shemmy explained, looking a bit exhausted by having to do so. She knelt on the ground and tapped rapidly where she wanted him.

Billiam joined her on the ground and laid the prince between them. As he unbuttoned the prince’s shirt, he asked her, “Why is this part out of the pool?”

She groaned a bit, not feeling terribly capable of teaching this novice. She understood how vital this was to him, so she indulged his curiosity. “These two organs be the most important. We dun want the energy to overflow ’um or for it to be flowin’ to the wrong place. I have more control up here, well more precision, as to the exact amount of blessin’ I put into each stitch. The other reason bein’, we know right away whether it has worked. Before I begin enchantin’ every damn finger and toe, I’d like to know it’s worth the effort.”

Billiam’s face twisted into a frown, but he conceded she was right. He sensed her stress and decided he needn’t know anything else; rather he need only assist her in anyway possible. He looked over to Zan, to make sure he was ready to ward any faeries off. My brother had his back to them and his blade already drawn in one hand, his pistol out in the other. He was hunched slightly and highly alert. There was no reason to check on him further.

“The needles please,” Shemmy commanded, holding her hand straight out. She looked more serious than he had yet seen her; the wild accent dropped completely from her voice. He pulled the needles from his waistband and placed them in her dirty hands. She began rubbing them together and twisting them along her fingertips.

“I will do the brain first. His eyes will snap open, but no one will quite be home yet as no oxygen will be supplied. When you see his eyes open, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It is supposed to be most effective when the first breath comes from the person’s true love. I doubt that’s a fact your research dug up for you, but we are lucky enough to have you here, regardless. As you breathe into him, I will be waking the heart. When you feel him take your breath, you can part, and we will be in business.”

Billiam nodded, feeling as though his own heart and brain were about to burst. His anticipation was burning through his stomach as he sat in the moist earth next to Micah. He thought not even for a second about the mud caking all over his trousers, a first for our fastidious hero.

Shemmy crawled on her hands and knees over to the prince’s head at the edge of the pool. She dipped one needle into the transparent pinkish water and scooped some into her hand as well. She dripped the water along Micah’s face in a hexagonal shape before swinging the dry needle in the same pattern. Billiam looked on horrified as it appeared Shemmy poked the wet needle right through the prince’s forehead, yet there was no real wound or actual puncturing. The needle glided through him like air and also through the earth, from which Shemmy retrieved it. She alternated dry and wet needles for about eight strange stitches through Micah’s face. She splashed water on his eyes, which shot wide open.

Billiam wished to stare into those sparkling sapphires, but he followed orders. He pressed his lips against Micah’s, which felt cold and stiff, nothing like what he had dreamed. The smell of death filled his nose, but he tried not to think of it as he poured his breath down the prince’s throat. Shemmy was sitting on Micah’s lap, stitching, and swinging her arms around wildly but with an intricate pattern. She splashed the lightly fizzing water onto Micah’s chest, wiping it across the length of his heart, before sending both needles within him. They floated through him and the ground, then back to Shemmy’s hands. She stood up before kneeling at the pool, throwing even more of the blessed liquid onto both their mouths.

Billiam was quite startled when Micah first breathed in. He was actually pulling away Billiam’s own air, and Billiam felt for a second as though he would suffocate. The feeling passed, and Micah blinked at him. Billiam pulled away only slightly, as the prince let out a small cough.

“Billiam….” Micah whispered, “oh Billiam, I thought I’d die before I’d ever get to kiss you!” His voice was weak, and he coughed again, but a smile grew on his face.

“You did, my prince!” Billiam exclaimed without thinking. He planted another quick kiss on Micah’s lips and jumped up to help Shemmy remove his shoes and other clothing.

“What?” Terror filled the prince’s eyes as the strange woman pulled off his underpants, and he began trying to kick her away.

“Do not move, Micah. I have not revived all of you yet. You are stiff, and you could tear yourself. Let’s get him in the pool, Billiam,” Shemmy explained, but it offered the frightened prince no reassurance. He tried to swing his hand at her but felt little response from his body. He then screamed, as the result of his movement was his wrist snapping back the wrong way.

“I told you so,” chided Shemmy as she jumped in the sparkling water, which covered her up to her bosom. Billiam followed her, dragging the terrified prince in by his armpits. Shemmy put her hand on his face and looked into his eyes sweetly. “Please, let me help you. I promise this is only for your own good.”

“I know Billiam wouldn’t let you hurt me, so I won’t move anymore,” he said softly. He was extremely disoriented by all of this but reassured by the strong, familiar presence holding him from behind. “Was I really dead, my love?”

“Yes you were, Micah. You left me a year ago,” Billiam answered, gingerly lifting up his right arm as Shemmy swished in the water around it. Micah looked on in wonder as the needles disappeared into his arm and reappeared back into that woman’s hands.

Shemmy was diving down in the water to start on his feet when the shots began sounding. “They have finally found us,” Zan called behind himself. He must’ve been terribly bored. He was shooting them down with deadly accuracy before they got anywhere near, but Billiam could see their numbers were strong.

The faeries were incredibly quick and looked to be simply a foot long or smaller orbs of light. My brother could make out the limbs and snaring teeth, but from the view of the pool it seemed Zan was surrounded with little stars. Their wings made a light humming sound as they circled about his head, ducking in and out of the trees. As soon as one fell, two more came forward from the depths of the forest, yet they luckily seemed entirely distracted by my brother. He was doing his best to keep his energy level as high as possible, as faeries focus on such things.

“You keep them away from us, no matter what!” Shemmy shouted, diving back down to work on his knees. Billiam held Micah tighter, feeling as though that would somehow keep him safer.

Shemmy dove back up and sent the needles in through Micah’s stomach. She paused when she saw his eyes grow really wide and frightened. “Something’s poking me!” he gasped.

Billiam’s face fell and went pale. “That’s just me, Prince. I missed you quite a lot,” he admitted bashfully, backing up a bit so he was once again just holding him by the armpits. Shemmy giggled loudly and summoned the needles back out.

Micah’s face turned bright red as he laughed with her. “Oh, okay. Nothing too scary, I suppose.” His words were followed by a loud squeal, the situation growing ever more awkward by the second. Shemmy was now down at his groin, passing the needles throughout his hindquarters. It goes without saying those parts needed to be revived as well, but she probably should have warned him first.

Most of this process was the same as it was with that man she had resurrected ten months prior. She had used her fingers and lit incense sticks instead of the needles, and there was no faerie pool; despite those differences, the general principle of reconnecting energy within the tissues carried through. Shemmy was far more skilled at enchanting than even she herself knew and was able to instinctively adapt to her situation now, one with the right tools and a conscious patient. She still did not necessarily understand everything she was doing, but she was definitely doing it right. The prince’s body began to respond, enliven, and even smell better with every pass through.

As Shemmy popped up again for air, she looked over to see Zan had been pushed a few feet back. His arms and chest had received some good slashes, and bloodstains were dotting his white shirt all over. He had switched to his blade; the pistol lay discarded on the ground. Shemmy turned back toward her patient. She had only the fingers and back left before she had to complete the final step, the soulstitch. “Spin ’im please!” she shouted, finally feeling confident enough to allow her accent to peek back through.

Billiam spun him swiftly, switching which armpit either hand held. Facing Micah, he saw almost all life had returned to him at last. He couldn’t help the tears growing in his eyes, prompting a little frown from the prince. “I am just so happy to see you!” Billiam exclaimed, causing Micah to cry from joy as well.

They all heard a thundering crash as a branch from one of those oak-like trees fell on top of Zan’s head. He grabbed it and swung it angrily around him, knocking at least a dozen faeries to the ground. “How much longer?” He grunted loudly, wiping the blood from his brow.

“Juss the soulstitch! Back towards me!” Shemmy shouted to Billiam. He spun the prince fast, making him dizzy.

Shemmy stared deep in Micah’s eyes, making him a bit uncomfortable, not that any of this had been comfortable. With a needle in either hand, she stuck one at the base of his throat and the other above his belly button. They looked like they were going through him, but all he could feel was a warm buzz where she had sent them. He looked down, amazed as they zigged and zagged through his chest all on their own. Shemmy intently watched them, wiggling her fingers rhythmically. Micah could hear her muttering what sounded like counting.

She was mumbling the number twenty-four when Zan was flung by a group of faeries against her. He didn’t fall into the pool, but he did knock her to the side of the pond, breaking her concentration. Drops of his blood fell in the water, floating around Micah until they dispersed. Zan shot up immediately, releasing an invisible burst of energy that sent the group of faeries flying back away from the clearing. He drew his sword and destroyed as many as possible before they became mobile once again.

Shemmy had to collect herself quickly. She needed to stitch the length of the soul twenty-seven times before it could be fully grounded to his body. She had finished the twenty-fourth, though the last go of the stitch went a little wonky. She did not want to repeat it, for if she over grounded him she could be cutting years off his life. She quickly went through twenty-five to twenty-seven, and then dunked Micah’s head under the water. As she pulled him back up, she squealed, “Go, go, go!”

Billiam grabbed the still weakened prince and jumped out of the four and a half feet of water like it was nothing.

“Just run!” screamed Zan as he released more energy toward the faeries, suspending all of them for those few moments. Billiam hurled himself and the prince through the narrow path of woods, his sword drawn. Faeries surrounded them, but none moved toward him.

Zan took a step back and pulled Shemmy out of the pool by her elbow. He shoved her under his arm like a sack of potatoes and chased after Billiam. The faeries’ movement restored as soon as their sprint started.

“Time fer reinforcements!” Zan heard Shemmy shout. He was holding her backwards, so when he looked down to the voice, he saw only her rump. She was spinning her needles and chanting something. Within a few seconds, all the faeries he had killed rose. They were releasing magic from their tiny corpses, electrocuting the living ones.

Upon catching up to Billiam, my brother saw they were cornered right before the entrance by a duo of faeries. They were trying to carve up Billiam and had struck his cheek. Zan easily stabbed the tiny beasts into one of the birches behind them.

“Shall we?” he shouted, pushing Billiam and Micah out of the woods. They all scrambled downhill, and Zan put Shemmy down finally. She was still commanding her dead faeries, as they had angered the live ones enough to drag them out of their home.

Billiam kept running down the cliffside, clutching Micah against his chest. It was difficult for him to just run when he heard Shemmy and Zan fighting behind him, though he knew he needed to protect the prince at all costs. His feet were slipping around in the dirt, and he could hear Micah breathing fast with panic.

Running down the rock face was worlds quicker, especially as Micah could now hold on weakly, making it a mere fraction of what their grueling ascent had been. Flat ground was only a few paces ahead, and he leapt to it, hoping that would spell safety. Before running over to the cart and Gam, he turned to see Shemmy cackling as she dived off the incline with Zan following at a relaxed pace.

“I think they gave up. They looked really pissed and terrified to see their kin being turned into marionettes by this one,” my brother explained, brimming with pride over Shemmy’s ingenuity. He pulled off his bloodstained and ripped shirt and placed his sword back in its hilt. He knelt down at Billiam’s feet before looking up at Micah and proclaiming dramatically, “Welcome back, Your Highness.” Zan wanted to spit on the prince; instead he sniveled.

Micah smiled wide, though seeing a disturbed look on Billiam’s face cut his delight at the display short. “Thank you for your bravery, Sir Zan of Ellekós. And who might my savior be?” he asked, straining to look over at Shemmy as Billiam followed her and Zan to the cart.

“Prince, may I have the pleasure of introducing Miss Chammerline Dubois XII, or Shemmy, if you don’t want her to pinch you,” Billiam informed him, while he dug through a saddlebag with the arm not entirely supporting Micah. He grabbed out a toothbrush and some peppermint soap. It had been at least a year since the prince’s mouth had been cleaned, the two of them would be requiring it both sanitary and pleasant.

Shemmy grinned to him from ear to ear, offering up a painfully awkward curtsey. “A pleasure to meet ya, Yer ’Ighness!”

Micah was immediately filled with happiness by the fun he saw in her. “No, no, that won’t do. You are the reason I am alive. I will not have you address me with such pomp; call me Micah. I am now in all of your debt, but especially yours, Shemmy. You are a miracle worker!” He was smiling wide, letting foamy bubbles fall from his lips as Billiam brushed his teeth quickly. Once he was finished, Micah spat to the side. It was not the most regal behavior, but at least that vital bit of hygiene was taken care of.

“Oi, I guess that juss makes you my little miracle, then, dunnit! Should we dress ’im or you wanna stay in yer birfday suit, Micah? It is yer new birfday, after all!” Shemmy cheered and tickled the bottom of Micah’s bare foot.

Billiam finally set Micah down and breezily caught a blanket Zan threw at him without looking. Micah was in awe at the dexterity and grinned as Billiam wrapped him up. He felt cold, but it was a distant chill, as if he were far colder than what he could actually feel. His body, though revived, felt so frail and tired that he began to sway under the weight of the quilt. Billiam grabbed him tight once again, but allowed his feet to stay on the ground this time.

Zan watched on as the three of them chatted, laughing like idiots. He decided he ought to actually get to work, as no one was interested in socializing with him. He also didn’t want to look upon the prince in his “birthday suit” any longer than he had to, even if he was now mostly covered. He changed into a clean shirt, swept out all the flour from the cart, and grabbed the damp quilts that had been thawing on a tree branch. He folded them before setting them down on the cart. All the while he was swallowing down a lump in his throat as large as one of the stupid horses that were watching him.

Feeling slightly less angry after distracting himself with chores, Zan could address them all once again. “We were not able to procure any of your clothes, Prince, but we brought you some from another knight in our order, Roland. He is the only one close to you in size, although they’ll still be a bit big,” he called over, displaying an outfit he had grabbed from one of their bags. A plain, rough-looking white button-up shirt and some far too loose black denim trousers stared ominously at the prince from my brother’s hand. Zan was exuding a forced enthusiasm, sure his humanity and generosity would please the prince.

He was wrong. Micah frowned so fiercely his distaste was practically audible. “I don’t think those are near my size, whatsoever,” he said as politely as he could muster. “Shemmy looks to be about the same size as me, though! What do you have, love?”

Although Micah was male, he never paid it much mind when it came to clothing or behavior. This was definitely his mother’s influence, who had fawned over him constantly and always encouraged him toward things “girly” or “pretty.” I suppose he was like myself in that way, only opposite.

She ran over to Gam and started pulling out all the strange clothing she packed from her hovel, spilling it onto the ground. “These are all my own creations!” she exclaimed. There were two patchwork dark leather dresses, much like the one she wore when Billiam met her, with strategically placed cutouts. Some tartan skirts, silky harem pants, and cotton tunics of varying colors and states of soiled were also strewn about her feet.

Among them was an odd crocheted one-piece, comprised of short shorts at the end and thin straps at the top. The hole-filled fabric would cover one’s entire midsection, although vaguely. As Shemmy grabbed that up, Micah responded, “I suppose I could wear that to bed,” with a loud snicker. Billiam cocked his head to the side, unsure if he liked the thought of that or not, prompting a loud groan from Zan.

Shemmy sensed Micah was none too impressed with her handmade fashions, so she got up and walked to her horse. “I also have the clothes Nairee and Jess made me get. They may be more to yer tastes, Micah.” She reached into the saddlebag packed for her and grabbed out a stack of clothing. There was another boring white button-up, although it looked to be better fitting. Underneath that, there was a silken long-sleeve blouse of ivory with a lace collar beautifully embroidered around the front. She held a fine pair of black woolen slacks at the bottom of the pile.

“We have a winner!” exclaimed Micah as he waddled slowly in his blanket over to Shemmy.

She was both surprised and delighted when Micah grabbed the silk top instead of the plain, more conventional shirt. He held it up marveling at the tailoring, checking the chest area. There didn’t seem to be much room for bosoms, as Shemmy was not all that well-endowed, thus it wouldn’t fit the prince too loosely. He held the trousers against himself and saw they would land right at his ankles. Despite them being near the same height, it appeared Micah was leggier.

He leaned over to Shemmy and asked, “Is it all right if I have Billiam make these into short pants for me? I think they will be much more flattering that way.”

“O’course! I was’nae plannin’ on ever wearing ’um anyhow.” She threw the pants at Billiam, who caught them easily. He was at work on them within seconds, slicing with his dagger right above where he expected the prince’s knee to land. Shemmy noticed Micah was hardly able to clutch his new top and the blanket at the same time. He seemed to be wobbling a bit as well. “Would ya like me to help ya wif getting into that?”

Micah smiled, and his face glowed with warmth. “Thank you so much, Shemmy. You are far too kind. However, I had been quite accustomed to being dressed by Billiam, so I’d prefer that, if he does not mind.” He looked bashfully over to Billiam and then back again, trying hard to not let the pretty blouse fall through his uncooperative fingers.

“It would be my pleasure—rather my honor, to assist you, my prince,” Billiam cheered as he ran over to him. He held the newly short pants in his hand as he scooped him up, quilt and all. Micah giggled while they disappeared behind the trees for his dressing.

About seven minutes of silence passed before Zan broke it, sighing loudly and beginning to pace. “I wonder if Billiam will free me to leave now that I’ve completed my defense in the faerie woods. It’s not as if I’m wanted here by anyone.” The horse-sized lump in his throat had not minimized. The more he thought of being there amongst Billiam’s absolute joy, the more he wished he could just choke on it.

“Aye, I dun like ya; however, I’m sure Billiam wants as many guardians for his prince as he can muster, even if they are you. Also, as excited as I may be to have this free show, I’m sure afta a while Imma wanna have a fourth wheel around, no matter who it be. How badly is it killin’ ya, seeing ’um back togever?”

“I am just fine. Why wouldn’t I be?” He answered with a ridiculously huge smile, mostly because he wanted to make his cheeks hurt. He wanted to feel something other than the consuming pain in his chest. Why had he let Billiam make him come? Why was he fighting to save the prince? He hated the prince; he had stolen away his only precious thing. Did he really care about saving his nation? He wasn’t even sure anymore. He cared about fitting in, and that was why he fought. He fought because it would please Billiam. He felt so pathetic.

“You feel so fine, ya wanna run off into the woods all on yer own? That makes not a lick o’ sense!” She was giggling at him when her eyes suddenly bugged out. A funny thought popped in her head and she blurted, “How long have they been gone?”

“I’d say we are nearing the ten-minute mark.”

“Well, thass more than enough time time to dress him, aye?” With that she ran off into the section of woods where she had seen the men disappear. As soon she spied the outline of Billiam’s back with a flash of Micah’s golden hair in front of it, she shrieked, “Stop, stop! You cannae yet!”

They turned toward her, confused and laughing. When she arrived where they were, she was panting and fell to her knees. She looked up at them, more specifically at both of their trousers, and sighed. “Oh thank Spirit. Then what the bloody hell is taking so long?”

Micah gave a short spin before exhausting himself and leaning against a tree. Billiam grinned at Shemmy and held his thread and needle below his face, forming a second smile. “What do you think, Shemmy?”

She looked over the prince, amazed at Billiam’s handiwork. He had taken in the silk blouse beautifully, leaving no trace that it was intended to encase a woman’s chest. The former trousers he not only cut but also hemmed and cuffed attractively above Micah’s kneecaps. There was even a pair of black soft-looking tights emerging from under the short pants. “Where did those come from? That’s my tunic sleeves, ain’t it?” Shemmy accused, pointing at the prince’s cloth clad ankles.

“Well, as much as I am an enthusiast of always looking one’s best, I must also look after Micah’s health. In order for me to feel comfortable with him wearing short pants in this climate, I needed to cover his legs with something, no?” He smirked at her both sneaky and sincere, somehow.

“Bah, fine. He looks so adorable; I forgive you! But doncha dare touch my fings again, Billiam, or I’ll put you back in Gam!” Shemmy ran over to the prince and squeezed him. She looked him over from head to toe, making plenty of ogling noises. “How did ya do all this so fast?”

“We all have our talents, enchantress. Tailoring is arguably my greatest skill. Moving away from that, why did you run out here so fervently? What, pray tell, did you think I was doing?”

“Oh, right! This be important! From all my research, I gathered it takes a whole two moons fer the body to be fully restored. That means you should’nae walk much, no eatin’ hard foods, no doin’ anyfing strenuous. So please Billiam, for his safety alone, don’t ya go stickin’ it in him for at least forty-eight hours, ya hear? And dat goes for his mouf too, and I mean it!” she instructed, quite adamantly with no trace of the humor that usually hid in her voice. Micah gasped and tried to hide his large smile behind his fingers.

“Oh, Shemmy, you are shameless,” Billiam responded with an exhausted sigh.

He was getting ready to lecture her on rudeness, when Micah interjected with a small, sweet voice, “Forty-eight hours from now or from when I was first revived?” He felt terribly embarrassed and refused to make eye contact with either of them.

“Oi, you little tart! I love it! I’d say you’ve been alive about an hour now, so we can make it forty-seven hours. You want it the very first second you can, doncha?” she asked him, giggling more as Micah’s blush grew a shade redder by the second. Billiam tried not to laugh with her, as he was both surprised and excited at what the prince’s inquiry had been.

Micah was mortified and pushed her slightly, but he could not force the grin from his face. “What kind of tramp do you take me for? I simply wanted to know, um… so I’d know when I could expect to… have to fight him off?” That was probably not supposed to be a question, but that’s definitely how it sounded. “Has it really only been an hour? I suppose I am not used to time passing. It feels like half a day. I wouldn’t have even bothered asking….” Micah trailed off and hid his face in his hands.

Billiam fought away his own laughter and finally intervened between Micah and his new fan. He picked the prince up and cradled him in his arms. He then turned to Shemmy and said, “Right, I will obey your rules and keep my hands and the rest of me to myself, hmm?” He smirked, and she nodded with approval. He pulled Micah’s head close to his own and gave him a kiss on top of it, feeling the strands of silk between his lips. “And you, my Prince, are free to try to fight me. I can’t say I’d mind you playing a little hard to get.”

Micah smiled and snuggled into Billiam’s shoulder, feeling quite comfortable getting carried around by this point. He looked over it to Shemmy, who was practically drooling and had remained motionless. “We should probably get back to Zan before he runs after us screaming too!”

This woke her up, and she followed them as they walked back to their cart and comrade. “I have another fing to get clear, too! The resuscitation and any kisses to the head or hands does’nae count as the one kiss I get to see!”

Micah looked curiously up at Billiam.

“Sorry, Prince, that was part of the agreement for her assisting in your rescue. She vulgarly asked to witness much more, but I negotiated her down. Do forgive me,” he explained, though Micah looked none too offended.

Contrarily, he got quite excited. “Billiam could kiss me right now, if you’d like, Shemmy?”

“That does not sound like a boy who will be fighting me off.”

Shemmy had another laughing fit and was grinning like a buffoon but shocked them with her response. “No, no, no. That will’nae do. I want it to be natural, and passionate, and such. That, and you could be finking ’bout me when you do it!”

“No offense, Shemmy, but I don’t know how much passion we will be able to feel if we are thinking of you. It would definitely not feel natural,” Micah retorted.

They were almost in sight of the clearing when Billiam stopped suddenly. “This looks like the perfect spot.”

He set Micah down on his feet, facing him. Kneeling slightly, he lifted up the prince’s chin and pressed his lips firmly against his. Micah’s knees gave out a bit as Billiam slid his tongue into his mouth, touching against his teeth playfully. He clutched the prince, once again carrying him; he had gone all limp. The kiss they had been waiting for, for what seemed like their whole lifetimes, lasted a only a few moments, though the passion in it was as large as that wait.

“I’m sorry, my Prince. I myself couldn’t resist any longer. Also, better to do it with one onlooker as opposed to two.”

Micah pressed his head against Billiam’s chest, feeling his newly awakened heart could burst with happiness. “I am glad you couldn’t! I doubt I will be playing hard to get anymore, not even remotely.”

“That was perfect!” Shemmy cried, falling into the boys and hugging them both. “I ain’t gonna promise that I’ll stop peekin’, though!”


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Review by Elaine White

Book – Defiant Revival

Author – L. Rockwood

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 300

Cover – Gorgeous. Stunning. Soft, simple but emotive.

POV – Confusing. See below.

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Medieval, Adventure, Resistance/Revolution, Resurrection, Magic

WARNINGS?

Loads. Too many to put into one of my usual one-line warnings. Rape, cheating, treason, Dom/sub, transitioning, kink, voyeurism, violence, cannibalism, sadism, and, as promised in the dedication, a whole lot of dick jokes!

~

Okay, for a start, I struggled with rating this one. Normally, the issue with the POV telling would demand that I lower it to a 4 star, but I just can’t. It was too good. I loved it too much. And I know, without a doubt, that it’s going to stay with me.

Secondly, this is part of a series and I didn’t know that. As it’s a debut novel, I can accept it, but I’m totally gutted because it means I have to wait absolutely FOREVER for the next book! I don’t know how I’ll manage it, but it’ll just have to.

~

STORYTELLING

Here, I had some trouble, which is why it’s not a 5-star review. First, we began with what appeared to be 1st person POV, then morphed into 3rd person, with a 1st person narrative. Which was confusing enough. Then we drifted from 3rd person, 1st person narrative, singular character POV into 3rd person, 1st person narrative with a omnipresent character POV. Keeping up? No? Me neither.

It took me until about 30% to actually get comfortable with the way the story was told, but by then I’d become engrossed in the plot.

Quite honestly, it’s mostly 3rd person, omnipresent. The 1st person narrative is heavier in the first 10-15% until we’re introduced to the narrator and the company of adventurers go their separate ways. After that, it really is mostly 3rd person with minor instances of 1st person narrative, including parts where the narrator talks directly to the reader.

~

CHARACTERS

Our narrator is Leke, a female soldier in the Order of Logos, loyal to Captain Ackerman Grimhart and his son, Billiam, who is the real leader of the group. She’s strong, feisty and a lesbian, with unrequited love for one woman and relationship with another character that is less than perfect for both of them.

What I love about Leke is that she’s introduced at 8%, so even though it’s a mystery who this narrator is until that point, it’s not something that is dragged out ridiculously, until it becomes frustrating. And Leke isn’t a mystery either. She introduces herself as a narrator can – in detail, when relevant.

Alongside Leke, who is a Faelock (elvish) the people we see the most of are as follows (and I’m going to be quick about this, because there’s a lot to say) –

Jessica and Katrina – twins

Micah – our dead Prince, who is gay, femme and twinkish

Billiam – Halflock (half Faelock), the hero, soldier and Micah’s best friend. Gay and madly in love with his Prince.

Zan – Faelock, madly in love with Billiam, but pretty much a bad guy, monster, bisexual and totally messed up mentally.

Shemmy – witch, crazy-cukoo, enchantress and obsessed with gay men.

Though there are many, many more characters, these are the ones that are vital to the story and our understanding of the events. And, as you can see, they cover the whole spectrum of Lesbian, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Trans, Cross-dressing, Pansexual, Androphiliac (attraction to masculinity) and so much more.

For me, the most interesting relationships and characters were this – Billiam/Zan, Leke, Billiam/Shemmy and then finally, as the story progressed – Micah/Billiam, Shemmy/Zan. I’m not going to say what that means or what level the relationships reached, only that the interactions between those characters was the most interesting and captivating, as the story led further into chaos and revealed secrets that were most definitely attention-grabbing.

I absolutely fell in love with Billiam right from the start, especially as he began to interact with Shemmy for the first time, refusing to fall off a cliff and be ‘cushioned’ by a huge, fat dead body! He was a piece of genius, both in the detail to his characterisation as well as his loveable personality and his natural reaction to common, human situations that was neither overreactive or unbelieveable.

Micah has to come next. He is this bundle of gleeful joy, full of life, love and fun. But he’s also a seriously wacked out psycho and I loved him to pieces!

After those two, I can’t decide who I love more between Shemmy and Zan. Though I like Leke, I didn’t resonate with her as much as these two, mostly because I suspect her biggest storyline is to come in a later book. The story was, after all, primarily about rescuing Micah and bringing him back from the dead. I’d have to say that Zan’s insanity is almost entirely matched with Shemmy’s, by the end of the book, but the descend into madness was much more intriguing to read about and experience than Shemmy, who was already whack-a-doo crazy to begin with.

Loretta. Well, I didn’t include her in the list above for one reason – I wouldn’t know what to tell you. Loretta is our cross-dressing, trans character, but she’s so much more than that and it didn’t feel right to pigeonhole her that way, simply because it might give too much away. I can’t say anything more about how brilliant, funny and uplifting her spirit is, without accidentally giving something away.

~

PLOT

I really loved that, though there was this huge secret past between Zan and Billiam, it wasn’t dragged on forever. Like the revelation of who the narrator was, it came at a time well before it would have gotten boring to read and wonder about. Just when it was most juicy and needed. We were given the big revelation at 24%, but the impact lasted right until the last page and for not one minute was I sick of reading about it, thinking about it or remembering that it had happened.

Not only was it devastating and unfortunately along the lines of what I’d already guessed, I loved the way it was executed. I also loved the way that Shemmy got to be us – the confused, devastated, shocked reader – who had to sit there and think that her sense that Billiam had been overreacting and that Zan’s kindness was being unfairly trod on was gut-wrenching, once we found out the full scope of their history. I felt as much a traitor for occasionally drifting mentally into Zan’s corner, as Shemmy did when she found out.

And, you know what I love most? Out of everything that I read or liked or discovered, this is the one note I made that I’m actually the proudest of:

“Is it morbid or just sadistic that I frickin’ LOVED the whole snapping of fingers and Micah’s righteous anger part? Best part of the story so far, which is saying something.” This was around the 59% mark and I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were MORE surprises, MORE brilliant scenes and exchanges to come and I got all giddy about it.

Then…WHAM! It was 92% and the story was over….there were Appendixes, but….the end. No more story. Just an endless wait for the cliffhanger ending to pick up in the next book.

And know what?

I.

CAN’T.

FRICKIN’

WAIT!

~

OVERALL

This was an action-packed, panty-dropping, eye-goggling adventure. There was an incredible journey of discovery, as Billiam had to rehash his past with Zan, Micah had to deal with some issue and even Shemmy had to realise that she couldn’t be the crazy witch-woman all the time and get away with it.

The book actually came with this warning, from the publisher –

“Readers please be aware this is not a traditional romance. While not a Bittersweet due to its ending, this title is a high-concept dark fantasy, with Tarantino and manga-style graphic violence, action, abuse, etc. Everyone is welcome to review this book but we do recommend this book for reviewers who enjoy titles outside of the contemporary romance realm, similar to the tastes of DSP Publications.”

All of that is true. However, don’t let it put you off. This is a fantastic book and I’ve honestly read much, much worse. Just not this well written, with characters – good and bad – that I fell in love with so quickly or so completely. You will not regret taking the chance on this story, this book or this author. If you’ve ever read and enjoyed T.J. Klune’s Immemorial Year series, anything by G. Streator or Lex Chase’s Chasing Sunrise, then you’re absolutely, positively going to LOVE this!

There was adventure, romance, sexiness and gore. It was fantastic.

I will be first in line for the next installment and whatever else L. Rockwood wants to throw at me. I’m ready.

~

FAVOURITE QUOTE

“The love of two boys ripped away before it could even begin! Oh no, no no! I must bring back your prince to you!”

“Oh perfect! Oh so exciting! Making history, saving the kingdom, getting sweets and a kitty cat! Today is blessed by the earth spirits, no doubt it is.” She smiled and wriggled like a giddy child. Billiam could hardly believe it had worked, that she really would do this. Her brashness melted away before his eyes, and he saw the kind, exuberant lass she truly was. “Now, let’s get you that Micah’s virginity!””


Meet L. Rockwood

L. Rockwood is survived by his artist wife, Rae, and their three adorable but stupid cats. He is also quite alive however terribly morbid. It is thanks to this macabre fascination (and likely his Scorpio moon) that death and rebirth is the central focus of all his works. L. definitely has a lighter side, usually manifesting in hot pink or glitter, as he is just as obsessed with all things kawaii.

L. is an out and proud pansexual transgender man. He draws from his own experiences, striving to celebrate the various and beautiful ways love and sexuality can manifest through his characters. His time is split between the Central and Lost Coasts of California. He has yet to spot his favorite animal, the unicorn, in his travels, but he will never give up hope.

Facebook.com/L.rockwoodwrites

Pinterest.com/cupcakehell

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