Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet. – W.B. Yeats
He is the manipulator and the instigator; he is the King of Evasion; he is the King of Subterfuge, the King of Truth and the King of Fabrication. He is pain and he is pleasure. He is the King of Destiny, the Director King. He is the algorithm and the fulcrum. He is the enigma. He is the Destroyer King and the Restorer King. He is the Weaver King who knits the threads of the Lost Kings into the intricate tapestry of the Found. He is the King of the Lost waiting to be discovered. He is the outsider. He is the Human Ghost who sacrifices for the sake of loving with all his love. He is the King of Provocation. He is the paradox.
He is so much. He is Vin Vanbly and I love him with all my love.
Edmond Manning takes us back in time, to 1996, three years before Perry Mangin was crowned the Forgiver King; to DeKalb, Illinois where Mai Kearns, an adopted son who has always been a unique presence in this small farming community, both for being Thai and for being gay, has forgotten how to love what he loves best.
Mai has built a life of bitter high school memories, of a failed relationship that not only broke his heart but broke his spirit as well. Brian’s rejection cast a pall over Mai’s legacy, over the dream of carrying on his family farm with someone who would stand by him and love him. But that was not meant to be. Brian is gone and the Kearns family, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and with no way to repay it, has lost their farm to a corporate entity. Mai is lost, mired in regret and denial and avoiding the pain in his heart by living in a world of statistical probabilities and random numerical samplings. Mai can quote facts and figures, but in all that accounting for the problem, he has missed the part of the equation where he works to find the solution. Mai cares dispassionately. Or perhaps he is passionately ignoring the reason why he cares. He is a paradox.
This is a story problem in which each solution is the sum of the previous parts, and Vin is there to guide and to misguide and to torture Mai through it, enduring the anger that sometimes feels like hate, embracing the love that sometimes feels like hurt, fanning the spark of fear and curiosity until it burns white-hot and so brightly that it blinds Mai to the fear and transforms the base metal of his resentment into the golden light of loving and embracing that which he’d come to resent. His curiosity is his courage, his courage founded in his fears. Mai’s journey will be one of discovery, in which he finds that what he wants and what he needs are one in the same.
Vin maneuvers Mai on his treasure hunt from Lost to Found, through a sensual landscape where silence has flavor and sound has color and the land is redolent with the scent of hope and despair. A paradox. It is a place where touch is a language all its own and a place where words can mean everything. Or nothing at all.
King Mai is a celebration of the contextual, a flow of poetic imagery and wordsmithing abundant with emotion. It is metaphorical and it is literal, it is more than romance and no less than the text of a master alchemist who has spun a love story that defies labeling. Edmond Manning has done it again, delivered an unequivocal reading experience that has knitted itself into King Perry, though the whole cloth of the Lost and Founds is a work-in-progress that is looping and stitching itself together, one Found King at a time, one Vin revelation at a time; its progress disproving some of my assumptions while proving that enemies snared in a web of memories can, through shared pain, evolve into brothers and friends.
If you’ve already read King Perry, then King Mai is a do-not-miss read. It is a darker book, more intense, and is a juxtaposition of the Vin Vanbly we first met in 1999.
If you haven’t read King Perry yet, my only question would be, then, what are you waiting for?
Let your curiosity be your guide.
Reviewed by: Lisa