Title: The Stagsblood Prince
Author: Gideon E. Wood
Genre: Fantasy / LGBTQ
Having spent countless seasons away from his homeland negotiating peace with the foreign country of Omela, Prince Tel of Feigh is solidly set in his vices. He begins every day with a drink, more often than not waking up with a raging headache and dry mouth. By his own admission, he beds easily. Upon the unexpected death of his beloved father, his younger brother, Lag, makes a political play for the crown. Although temped to continue burying his head in the sand, Tel is forced to take action when Lag and his followers begin to incarcerate both foreigners and children with the stagsblood, an ancient magic passed down by the original gods.
The Stagsblood Prince follows Prince Tel as he embarks on a journey to retake his rightful place as King of Feigh. Though severely outnumbered and at a significant disadvantage, he is not alone in his fight. Caip, his best friend from childhood, vows to protect him at all costs. Vared, the Omelan singer sent to Feigh on a diplomatic mission, provides a unique perspective Tel finds that he can’t live without. And then there is Tel’s magical secret, the one he has hidden from the world for his entire life. He will need all of these and more if he wants to win back his homeland.
The Stagsblood Prince is the first in Gideon E. Wood’s, The Stagsblood Trilogy, a new fantasy series. Readers will find a flawed, but epic hero in Prince Tel. At the beginning of the book, Tel is buried in his vices. He struggles with alcohol as he attempts to hide from the pain he has experienced in his life. Though this topic may be difficult for some readers, his struggle and ultimate victory over alcoholism is extremely moving. Readers will fall in love with Tel, the hero of his own story, as countless situations are placed in front of him to highlight his character. He is forced to go against his pacifist faith, something that has defined him for his entire life, to save his people. He constantly defends those who are diverse, celebrating their differences and striving to mold a country that shares his welcoming and inclusive values. He is a hero that readers will root for from cover to cover.
One aspect of this book that truly shines is the love story between Tel and Vared. Their relationship is slow to unfold, but readers will witness their love for one another grow firsthand. They are well-developed characters with flaws and complex histories, and their story is both sweet and passionate. Readers should be aware that several sexual encounters between Tel and Vared are detailed in a fairly graphic manner, so discretion is advised.
The story is well-developed and flows smoothly. Despite this, readers may find that the end of the book feels rushed, lacking the same impact as the beginning and middle. Although not many, some parts toward the end became a bit confusing and could have used more continuity between plot points.
For a fantasy novel, the setting is very realistic. Despite some magical aspects, the world is recognizable, minimizing the chance that readers will struggle to envision the setting. Wood’s writing style is versatile and engaging, mirroring Tel’s outlook on life which ranges from self-depreciating to poetic and back again.
The Stagsblood Prince is a thoroughly engaging fantasy complete with a flawed, but good-hearted hero, an epic love, and descendants of an ancient bloodline to throw some magic into the mix. This story touches on the importance of celebrating differences and fighting for what you believe in. When readers inevitably crave more of Tel and Vared’s story, they can find Vared’s account of his early days in Feigh in Wood’s accompanying novella, Songmaker.
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