Blog Tour ~ The Missing Heir of Mandralay Author: Braden Bell Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy Dates: 20th – 24th of Feb Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours
A heartless monster. An innocent girl. He holds her life in his paws, but she holds his soul in her hands. Thirteen-year-old Tallie has a strange new power. While experimenting with this power late at night, she is discovered by Mother Kyraisa, the ancient nun who runs the orphanage where Tallie lives. Terrified of something, Mother Kyraisa evacuates the orphanage and burns it to the ground. The pair flees into the desert with only a wagon and a lead-lined coffin to protect the girl from the unspoken danger that pursues her. With no memories, no heart, or even a name, X is a monster. Fiercest of the Bestials, his predator’s instincts are controlled only by powerful spells binding his life to the regent’s will. When a flash of apostate magic betrays the hiding place of the late queen’s daughter, the regent dispatches X to kill the child—her niece and the long-hidden heir to the throne. Following the child’s magic, X tracks Tallie to her hiding place. He prepares to kill her, until Tallie surprises him with a sincere request for help. Tallie’s innocence and trust awaken a small spark of humanity inside X, and he tries to help her. But he remains a monster, bound by instinct and unbreakable oaths. Helping Tallie triggers a ferocious battle, as X fights his primal nature for her life—and his only hope of redemption. Meanwhile, Tallie grapples with the tragedy of her past and her identity as crown princess. As royal heir, Tallie finds access to immense power—enough to destroy her enemies, but possibly her own soul as well, turning her into a monster far worse than X.
↓Buy Links↓ Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Missing-Heir-Mandralay-Soulbound-Book-ebook/dp/B01MU7V87Z/
Braden Bell (who writes Young Adult novels under the name Brandon Gray) holds a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his family live on a quiet, wooded lot in Tennessee, where he teaches middle school theatre and music. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys reading, gardening, and long summer afternoons writing in his hammock. To read about his YA novels, check out: amazon.com/author/brandongray Visit him at:
I have been thinking a great deal about love lately. Partly because it's Valentine's Day. Even more importantly, my wife and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary the same week. At work, I've been busy directing Beauty and the Beast, which eloquently testifies to the transformative power of love.
The power of love is a theme in The Missing Heir of Mandralay, although there's no romance. I worry that as our culture rightly celebrates the joy of romantic love, we forget that there are many other kinds of love that are as important and powerful as they can be overlooked.
I walked from my classroom to the administration building the other day to check my mail. Since the weather was lovely, I walked outside, passing by the playground while the first graders were out at recess. Childish voices shouted, “Dr. Bell!” I looked up as a small gaggle of children ran to me. A few seconds later, amid joyful giggles, my knees were securely wrapped in the all-encompassing hug of small arms.
I froze for a moment. Middle school teachers aren’t usually greeted like this nor are the parents of teens and older children. I was startled—then delighted—by the unabashed affection that comes from innocent hearts. There I stood, surprised by love.
This experience made me think a little more about love and all its different forms and manifestations. It occurred to me that most of our cultural explorations and celebrations of love are about receiving love. Perhaps we are all a little surprised when someone loves us.
But as I started remembering other times when love surprised me, I realized they came from the other side of the equation: times when I gave love. The giving of love is something we don’t talk about as much, at least directly. I wonder if we should celebrate it more, because it’s so fundamental to what so many adults do as they interact with children. It happens so often that I’m not sure we even notice.
The first time I was truly surprised by unselfish, unconditional love was when I became a father. Holding that tiny baby filled me with a rush of joyful obligation and the most unselfish affection I had ever felt. Until then, most of my energies had been spent on getting other people to love me.
This was different. Unlike other previous relationships, that child could do nothing for me. In fact, I was now required to do everything for him. He demanded more from me than anyone ever had: time and attention, money, and quite literally everything my wife and I could give—including the sleep I needed to function. In the struggle to provide these things, we became more tired, more stressed, much poorer, and far busier. In every way we were less free than we’d ever been. And yet, we loved our child with an intensity and purity neither of us had experienced before.
I don’t consider myself to be a selfless person. In fact, to be honest, I’m pretty selfish. But somehow, parenting has allowed me to transcend my self-concern. There I was, surprised by my ability to love someone else.
That’s not to say it was easy. Loving a child doesn’t fix sleep deprivation or change diapers, nor does it do homework, provide meals or any of the other hundreds of jobs a parent does. But we do it. Over and over.
It seems to me that’s a miracle. Like my experience on the playground, perhaps we should take a moment to acknowledge, celebrate, and savor it.
The second time unconditional love caught me off guard was when I started teaching. I expected to enjoy my students and certainly hoped they’d like me; I did not expect to love them. But I did. And I still do, perhaps more each year. At first it felt funny to use the word “love” in this context. But there’s no other word for it, although I searched for years to find one.
Part of my surprise was situational, since being a teacher is obviously not the same as being a parent. The bonds and boundaries, the roles and responsibilities are very different.
But part of the surprise was how much I, a fundamentally selfish being, was again able to thrive in a profoundly asymmetrical relationship. I was tasked with the welfare of small humans, all of whom were vulnerable and deserved my best efforts. I was to look after them, not vice versa. And once again, despite this imbalance—or because of it—I found myself loving without expecting anything in return.
I don’t want to make it sound easy because it wasn’t. Teachers, like parents, are never really “done.” I’ve had rough times in both roles. There is always more patience to attain, more content to master, and a better way to handle a situation. One is always learning to discipline and motivate more effectively, and there is always new information and research about the right and wrong way to do things. And, of course, one never has a shortage of critics. All of that can be exhausting, draining, and so very difficult.
Still, I have come to believe in both the miracle and the value of giving selfless love. It came full circle recently when one of my children needed some financial help. The need was legitimate, but it drew on money for which I had other cherished plans. And yet I found myself truly wanting to help my child.
I think of my pre-child, pre-teaching soul as an empty field. Something about all those years of giving with no expectation of return was like digging in that field. It was work—often difficult and even painful. But all that digging broke the dry ground, took out the rocks, and unearthed much richer soil. Where nothing grew before, an amazing garden now blooms.
I have become better. Despite very real flaws and failings as a human, a parent, and a teacher, I know I can love without expectation of return. There is something comforting and ennobling in that, something to which I can cling when confronted by my weaknesses.
In many ways as a parent—and teacher—I have less of some things. I have less, but I’ve become more.
Once again, I’m surprised by love.