Hi, everyone, thanks for having me on this tour for Gabriel's City! Don't forget to leave a comment at the end of this post to win a chance at the ZOMG Smells giveaway!
Spoiled young aristocrat Colin Harwood has always enjoyed flirting with danger, but he’s always been able to retreat to safety—until bad decisions and a chance encounter plunge him into a world far more savage than his own. Gabriel is an urban legend, famous in the underworld for his unpredictability and violence. He’s also a believer fairy tales, and quick to decide to the handsome stranger who came to his aid must be good luck. With few other options remaining, Colin will need to keep his wits about him to learn to survive in Gabriel’s City.
Falling Backward into YA
I never set out to be a YA writer. People tell me it was a well-made mistake, as the song goes—that YA is So Hot Right Now and such an great genre to be active in. Which. Wow! Neat! (A little part of me goes, But I don’t have a love triangle! But most of me is going Wow! Neat!)
To be honest, I think I blame video games for the fact that the boys started out, well, boys in the first place. I’ve played a lot of JRPGs in my time, and after you pilot enough 17-year-olds through the arduous level-grind that leads to saving the world, it starts to sound like a very reasonable age for a main character! (It probably helps that I was closer to that age when I started the first draft, too; by now I’m old enough that I’m the grouchy mentor character in the hero’s party.)
But the narrative demands of a video game are very different from those of a novel. Once I’d started out with a main character right on the cusp of adulthood and put him into a situation where he had to form actual ties with people and deal with the world around him, it was inevitable that I’d wind up tackling some of the universal YA themes: coming of age, discovering love, terrorizing the criminal underworld.
Okay maybe that last one isn’t quite universal.
But the themes that underlie YA, and that I think drive its surging popularity as a genre, are really important ones: main characters in these stories are figuring themselves out, learning what kind of adults they want to be, discovering how it feels to become responsible for your own fate and forge maybe-lasting connections with people on their own terms. What wonderful material that is for a writer.
And those themes make up Colin’s major arc over the novel, his metamorphosis into Drake. He begins as a shallow, spoiled boy who doesn’t think much further ahead than his next hand of cards, and he ends as a driven, passionate young man who would tear down anything that stood between him and his heart’s desire. He’s learning that his choices have weight, that his fate is in his hands, and—this is a romance, after all—that love can bring something beautiful to even the poorest circumstances.
Once I put it like that, well, of course I’m writing YA. The heart of the genre isn’t the sparkly love interest or the bread and circuses of a media-fueled dystopia; it’s the emotional growth the main characters go through and the things they learn about life. Guiding a character through that growth and change is immensely rewarding. I love doing it, and I hope you’ll love the result.
Gabriel’s City: A Tale of Fables and Fortunes by Layla Hunter
Title ~ Gabriel’s City: A Tale of Fables & Fortunes
Author ~ Layla Hunter
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 17th November 2014
Genre ~ Fantasy M/M Romance, YA
For spoiled young aristocrat Colin Harwood, the port city of Casmile is a buffet of easy pleasures. But when he steps into a pub brawl to help a dangerously outnumbered young man, he is drawn into the seedy underbelly of the city the young man calls home.
Gabriel is a cutpurse and a knife for hire, practically an urban legend. His vision of Casmile is touched by a strange combination of faith and madness, driven by fairytale logic and a capacity for love that he often must suppress to survive. He’s always worked alone, but when a dashing dragon who calls himself Colin saves him in a bar fight, he pulls Colin into his world.
Gabriel’s city is nothing like the refined, socialite existence that bored Colin senseless. Colin finds adventure and excitement there—and maybe even love. But with his layers of finery stripped away, nothing remains to protect him from poverty or danger—except Gabriel. So he must choose: go back to the civilized young man he once was, or fly free as Gabriel’s dragon.
Gabriel's City started well. I really liked the way I was drawn into the dark, underbelly of the city alongside privileged socialite Colin, who, because of gambling debts, got thrown out of his home and onto the streets by his strict father for bringing the wrath of a local criminal to their doorstep. There's nowhere else for him to go but back to the city where he can only hope to escape the clutches of the man (Barron) who will surely kill him if he doesn't pay him the large amount of money he owes.
Making his way back there in shame, he takes refuge at a local inn in the poorer part of the City, where he meets a young, almost waif like, man: Gabriel, who's mental state see-saws between whimsical childlike innocence and stone cold, volatile, killer; something Colin witnesses when he inadvertently saves his life in a violent pub brawl, between Gabriel and some thugs who have been sent to kill him. An unfair fight that Colin can't help but jump in on even though the deceivingly frail looking young fellow is holding his own far better than he expected. When it's over the men are left dead—one at Colin's hand— and the unstable street urchin latches onto him because in his mind he now perceives him as his lucky mascot. He calls Colin his dragon, naming him "Drake", and he plays along with it for fear of angering this strange, unpredictable boy; who's reputation for gruesomely dispatching his adversaries is literally the stuff of legends and who that night proceeds to show Colin just how cold blooded he can be when he seeks out the bad man who wanted Gabriel dead, and proceeds to savagely torture and kill him in front of Colin, without batting an eyelid! There's no doubt that Gabriel is more than slightly touched in some way but stupid he is not! Surviving because of his street smarts, he draws 'Drake' into his cockeyed world and over time the two of them begin to form a bond that does turn to a romantic attachment, although I'd primarily class this more as a tale of action and adventure than love story. In fact watching Colin's transition from pampered rich boy to savvy street lad, who learns to take care of himself among the thieves and cutthroats, gave the story a coming of age feel too.
"Be the dragon."........" It's madness, true. But it'll help you all the same. Gabriel didn't take in some wayward lordling in a fancy pirate costume. You've more to you than that. Remember it."
So that's what Colin does...he becomes Gabriel's dragon and as Drake, continues to ensure his survival by following Gabriel's lead, as together they encounter more than their fair share of trouble, especially when they fall foul of the local cold hearted Captain of the Guard who, after a run in with both him and Gabriel, is after their hides.
My favorite character has to be Gabriel, he's quite the enigma. Scary because of his unpredictability yet strangely lovable too. I loved the juxtaposition of deranged cutthroat/thief and simple, guileless child. To me it seemed like he was a mix of Mac the knife, the Artful Dodger and Peter Pan rolled into one. In fact at times, his and Drakes relationship reminded me of the one between Peter and Wendy, especially when he would snuggle into Drake while listening to him tell stories. His artless, 'to the point' views of the world were kind of charming but his dark mood changes could turn on a sixpence. There was no doubt Colin/Drakes influence on him kept him more stable, while he in turn made a better man of his initially reluctant companion.
"Gabriel..." Colin hesitates. He doesn't particularly want to ask but he needs the answer: "You do know I'm not really a dragon don't you? You know it's fancy?" Gabriel glances at him for barely an instant and then drops his gaze. "I know sometimes I see things that aren't what people think I'm supposed to see. And sometimes they get upset if I say so." His voice is tight and unhappy. "You're a rich mans son, filthy and lost somewhere you don't belong. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
Looking back, I can't not say that Gabriel's City wasn't an enjoyable read...it's world building quite imaginative...but all the while I was reading there was this annoying little niggle at the back of my head telling me that as much as I found the story flowed well, and I really liked the basic premise of the tale, there was still something missing that could have elevated this from being a good read...to a great one! I had moments with it when I felt the potential was there to really knock my socks off but unfortunately, for me, it never quite achieved that. The darkness that's promised from that first, pretty explicit gruesome encounter with Gabriel's enemy, became more a case of telling than actually showing to move the stories time line on once they joined forces, and non of the dangerous situations they found themselves in after that, which brought out Gabriel's killer instinct and knife skills, really lived up to that deliciously squirmy opening, and I'm still slightly on the fence about the love story aspect. Again, some moments worked ...others didn't? But the last third did lift off again and I finished it feeling pretty satisfied overall. I have to be honest fantasy is probably my least favorite sub genre of m/m but on the whole Laylah Hunter did a good job of hooking me in and once I got involved in their adventures, I had to see their their story play out. One thing I do like is quirky...and I'm glad to say Gabriel's City did supply plenty of that!
Buy it Here
Meet Layla Hunter
Laylah Hunter is a third-gendered butch queer who writes true stories about imaginary people in worlds that never were. Most of hir work deals with queer characters, erotic themes, and the search for happy endings in unfavorable circumstances.
Her mild-mannered alter ego lives in Seattle, at the mercy of the requisite cats and cultivating the requisite caffeine habit, and dreams of a day when telling stories will pay all the bills.
I have the good fortune to be friends with the charming people who run http://www.zomgsmellsshop.com/ZOMG Smells, who make, as their tagline says, “Fine nerdy scents for fine nerdy people.” They have created a set of perfume oil blends inspired by the characters of Gabriel’s City, and I’d like to give some away at the end of this tour! You’ll get seven 5-ml bottles.
Just leave a comment for your chance to win