“The Emperor cares for each and every one of his subjects.”
Many consider the catchphrase of the imperial Lotus Knights to be nothing more but well-polished propaganda, but for Yaden, it is a way of life.
A young Lotus Knight himself, his first mission in service of the Emperor sends him to the remote village of Hagermarsh, a suspiciously friendly place on a planet known for its inhospitable people. But how to uncover a demonist coven when nothing bad ever happens?
Getting to know the villagers only makes things more difficult - the motherly fishmonger surely isn’t a demonist. Nor the gruff leader of the local militia. And definitely not the cute baker from across the street.
Or are they?
Come discover a dazzling, hopeful universe of knights and monsters, of psions, aliens and ancient deities! The Demon of Hagermarsh is the first book of ‘Sir Yaden’, an epic SF saga of grand adventure, romance, bromance and family, set in the multi-faceted Virasana Empire. It is a romantic adventure and can be read as a standalone.
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Pansexual, Polyamorous
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Everyone is Queer, Famous / Royalty in Disguise, First Time, Hero and the Great Quest, True Love
Word Count: 77000
Setting: Virasana Empire: Leichnam
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Instantly, Yaden was on his feet and in the sales room, only to realise that he had absolutely no reason to do so except for his curiosity, but now it was too late for a credible retreat.
“Good day, Sir,” he greeted Colin, hoping he'd come across as a diligent shop servant and not some weirdo.
Colin looked a little startled at his sudden appearance, but he gave him that sunny smile of his. “Good day, Yaden. I thought I'd break with tradition and come in first, so the rest of them can follow. Me being the other most recent newcomer to the village and all.”
“Oh?” So that was why Colin seemed so out of place in Hagermarsh. “You're not from here either?”
“Actually I sort of am. My family has owned that bakery for generations. But my mother and her sister ran away to Schimmelbach. They hated this place, so, I wasn't born here.”
“Really? But what's to hate here? Hagermarsh seems pretty nice so far.”READ MORE
“I don't actually know,” Colin replied with another smile, this time bittersweet. “Mother died when I was little, so Aunt Mildred raised me. And she rarely talked about their time in Hagermarsh.”
“So there's a terrible, dark secret to this village?” Yaden tried to keep his tone down and not too hopeful.
Colin laughed out loud. “In Hagermarsh? If there is one, I haven't been initiated yet. I only moved here a few years ago, when my Grandpa died and I took over the bakery. And so far, it's been the nicest place I've ever lived in.”
Not a useful lead. Yaden feverishly tried to figure out a way to ask more questions without making their conversation sound too much like an interrogation, until he noticed that Colin was looking at him with that beaming smile of his. It made him terribly nervous.
“So ... What are you looking to buy?” Inelegant, but at least it was a way out.
“A few odds and ends. We do need the General Store to open again. Which reminds me, can I have my basket back, yet?”
“Actually, I dropped it off with your apprentice yesterday. Didn't he tell you?” Yaden had specifically told the youth to let his master know, but had only received the usual grunt in return.
Colin groaned dramatically. “Rory! That lazy foghead is going to be the death of me one day! Eithne insisted that regular work would be good for him and he would improve, but I swear he is getting worse. That's what you get for listening to a kind old lady trying to barter off one of her grandsons.”
“I'm … sorry?”
“No, no, not your fault at all.” Colin's smile was back again in a blink. How could a man smile that much? “I'll deal with him. After all, he is my apprentice and I'm responsible for him. I'll get him into shape eventually.” He pulled a small note from his pocket, scanned it and for the first time properly looked around the sales room, his eyes going wide. “Wow! This is so orderly. And so much. It looks like you have at least one of everything.”
Before moving from Erys to Lagoona, Yaden would have agreed. He vividly remembered the first time he and Darios had visited one of the big shopping malls in Ridge, the highrise quarter of Agami, and gaped at the sheer amount of stuff on sale they hadn't even known existed. They sure had felt like clueless country bumpkins. But after a year in the Empire's capital, he had gotten used to it to a point where the General Store's range of goods felt rudimentary to him.
“Mostly I need a new pen and a whole bunch of different spices.” Colin smiled at Yaden hopefully. “Could you show me where everything is?”
“Sure, though we may not have exotic spices in stock. But we can order them for you.”
“That would be great. Okay, let me see. Most urgently, I need some garnak, ideally whole pods, and some dried lurka leaves. Do you have any terran caraway, by chance?”
There wasn't much assistance Yaden could offer, apart from showing him where they kept the spices. Deciphering the labels on the tins would have taken him much longer than Colin. But he recognized them at a glance, and Yaden stayed with him to portion out the amounts he needed and bring them over to the counter.
When Colin followed him to the counter, he noticed Darios properly for the first time and did a double take at his size.
“Master Darios, who actually owns the store,” Yaden introduced.
Darios greeted Colin with an amicable grunt and put his book down to ring up Colin's purchases.
“I promised Master Colin a discount in exchange for his welcoming bread,” Yaden reminded him.
“Oh, no, that is absolutely not necessary.”
Colin looked embarrassed, but Darios glanced at Yaden with a decidedly amused twinkle in his eye. Instead of figuring in a discount, he pulled two extra pencils from the box he kept under the counter and pushed them over to Colin.
“Thank you.” He smiled first at Darios and then at Yaden again. For a Leichnami he smiled suspiciously much, but his smile was warm and pretty and Yaden couldn't bring himself to mind. “Well, I should be on my way before the rest of Hagermarsh starts wondering whether you have eaten me.”
Walking him to the door was ridiculous, of course, but Yaden trailed behind him.
“Will I see you at the scribba training tonight?” Colin asked when he stepped out onto the porch.
“I thought that is only for the fighting citizens?”
Colin shook his head. “No, it's a bit of a social gathering, too. Lots of people standing around, drinking beer and giving useless advice to us poor fork-wielding folk.” He smiled yet again. “I could introduce you to some of the younger villagers.”
Yaden gave an exaggerated shudder. “I'm not sure I want to meet them if they are anything like Bridget from next door,” he grabbed the opportunity to gather more information.
“Oh, so you met Bridget?” Colin's smile gained a decidedly snarky edge. “Did she give you the 'in this village we don't tolerate any bullying and you better not step out of line' speech?”
“Actually, she asked me lots of questions. And she gave me the 'if anyone bullies you, I'll protect you' speech.”
“She did?” Colin looked amused and indignant at the same time. “Now, why do you look worthy of protection to her and I get treated like a ticking time bomb?”
“I don't know. Maybe I look harmless?” Which was more than a little ridiculous considering what Yaden was capable of.
“Mmh,” Colin huffed and shrugged. “Granted, Bridget is a bit odd. But there are some nice folks in Hagermarsh. They only act gruff when there is a chance of strangers observing them. Hagermarsh is a real community where people look out for each other. I think you'll like it here.”
Colin gave him that movie-star smile again, but Yaden had to struggle keeping up his own.
Those last sentences had triggered all alarms in Yaden's head. All of that sounded way too much like propaganda, crafted to keep the population calm, happy and ignorant of any ugly things happening behind the scenes. It sounded very much like the slogans the Lotus Pavilion PR team had drummed into his head. Colin had even the right kind of wholesome handsomeness that made believing such stories so easy. If Yaden managed to pinpoint where this propaganda was coming from, he'd be on the right track.
“See you at the training, tonight?” Colin asked.
Yaden only managed an affirmative grunt.
“Looking forward to it. Oh, and you may wanna bring some beer. That'll go a long way in making you less of a stranger.”
Yaden grunted again. Maybe not beer, but he had unpacked a whole crate of different kinds of schnapps and brandy earlier. Those would surely work just as well. He managed a parting smile before Colin turned around and left across the road.COLLAPSE
Anne Barwell on Amazon.com wrote:
“The Emperor cares for each and every one of his subjects.”
With that bland, propaganda-like statement, Mr. and Mrs. Brackhaus introduce us to a world that seems to be a mashup of every kind of fantasy we’ve ever known. It is Game of Thrones meets Star Wars meets Harry Potter. There are medieval fortresses on volcano-ridden planets and shopping malls with movie theaters on lush tropical islands. It is a world with electricity and human slavery, with interplanetary teleportation and combustion engines. To pull off this sort of all-embracing vision, it takes a careful writer who can manage details and keep track of things. At first, I giggled at the absurdity of it all, but I was pretty quickly sucked into the rather gentle dream that Beryll and Osiris have created for us.
Yaden Quetzal is all of five when he and his shocked parents discover that he has the power to quell volcanoes and calm earthquakes. This is useful on his volatile home planet of Erys, where his parents are Vivaine and Giano Quetzal, Duke and Duchess of Erys, close relatives of the Virasana Emperor. Little Yaden is the most powerful psion in all humanity.
So, his mother, not knowing what else to do, decides to buy him a slave.
Darios, a failed gladiator on a planet where slavery is big business in a strangely modern way, becomes both Yaden’s guardian and one of the two narrators of this adventure. Darios accompanies the twenty-three-year-old Yaden, now an imperial Lotus Knight, to go undercover to the hostile, gray planet of Leichnam (which we are told means corpse). There, disguised as tradesmen, they must investigate an aura of demonism that hangs over the little gray fishing town of Hagermarsh.
The central jewel in this story is the relationship between the slave Darios and his owner Yaden. Theirs is the love of father and child, admixed with that of close friends. The entire book is peppered with Darios’ memories, explaining both Yaden’s background and the development of their life together. The Hagermarsh adventure itself seems largely mild and almost comical, until it isn’t. In this part of the narrative we get to witness the Yaden that Darios has raised, from terrified, lonely, underfed boy to super-hero-in-training. Yaden is ever hesitant, always wondering if he’s up to the task; and always looks to Darios for reassurance and tenderness. Yaden knows how powerful he is but is in no way cocky or arrogant. Like the catchphrase of the Emperor, Yaden truly cares, not only about the people of the empire, but the planets themselves.
To complicate their investigation, Yaden begins to feel love and attraction for the first time in his life, falling for the pretty baker Colin, whose shop is across the street. Once again, it is to Darios that he turns for advice and reassurance. It all seems far too gentle and cozy, until push comes to shove and Yaden is at last called upon to demonstrate his true mettle.
I really loved the writing here, the wide-eyed, curious tone that the Brackhauses give to the narrative, and the delight in throwing in detail after detail. I loved the profound affection that binds Darios and Yaden. Of course, I also loved both of these characters very much individually, because one rarely meets such purely good-hearted people in interplanetary empires.
I bought the second book in the Sir Yaden series without even reading the blurb. This is a world I want to get to know better.
I loved how this story juxtaposed fantasy expectations with modernity. The blurb sets up for a medieval setting, and yet the setting has a touch of a modern world. The world building is fabulous, as is the magic system. I loved the idea of demon magic smelling like mouldy mushrooms. I also liked that there are consequences for using magic, and that the user has to replenish the energy they’ve used.
Having the story told in 3rd person for the present, and the flashbacks in 1st, yet having the two parts of the stories working together was an original way to tell it. I liked the insight it gave to both the main characters—and the different perspectives of their class—as the story unfolded, neither spoiling the other. The switch between made it clearer whether I was reading the current storyline or the prequel/history part of it too.
Yaden is an interesting character. I loved his power, which is very cool, and I liked that way he’s powerful, yet very young, and has a lot to learn especially about relationships and romance. I enjoyed seeing him through Darios’ eyes, and learning about Darios’ history too. Yaden’s growing romance with Colin is very sweet. I liked the two of them together, and Colin as a person too.
Another strength of this story is the descriptions. They give a great sense of atmosphere and I had a clear picture of every scene. The village feels like a typical small village with the gossip and matchmaking, and I thought the demonic side of it was an interesting twist on how those kinds of stories—and reasons behind deals with demons—usually play out.
I loved the idea of the Lotus Knights, plus the fact they have a PR department making movies, and selling merchandise, based around the knights’ missions. A lot of this story is very different and original, which I thought was brilliant. I enjoyed the final showdown, and liked that it wasn’t an easy fight, and that Yaden makes mistakes. It adds a sense of realism to the story, and his character.
I also liked Yaden’s friend, Haakon, and would love to see more of him.
I was very happy to learn this is the first in a series, and looking forward to reading more of Yaden’s adventures. Further research found an online wiki, which is a very cool idea!
I’d recommend this story to reader who enjoy fantasy that is a little different and a lot of fun, fabulous world building, and endearing characters.
The 'Virasana Empire' is a diverse space opera setting, charting the fate of the human race several millenia into the future. It is offers a wild patchwork of different cultures, beliefs and values, colourful and contrasting. We love reading and telling culture clash stories, as those always deepen our understanding of our own culture and our perceptions of what is 'normal'.
Maybe the more important way in which the 'Virasana Empire' is uniquely different is the positive outlook. The setting is pretty grim in many places, but it is never hopeless. If anything, it's on an overall upswing, and things, as bad as they might be, are improving, little by little.