I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for The Last Princess of Latura by Darren Simon! I had the opportunity to review both books, which I definitely enjoyed. There’s also a giveaway at the end, so be sure to read through the post. 😊
The Last Princess of Latura Book 1
by Darren Simon
Genre: Middle-Grade/New Adult fantasy
Charlee Smelton is an average thirteen-year-old girl struggling to adapt after her family moves to San Francisco. She thinks her biggest obstacle is facing the bullies who brand her a nerd and a dweeb. She’s wrong. Her life is about to change—for the worse. First, she receives a gift of the ugliest, most old fashioned bike she has ever seen. Try as she might to ditch it in the city, she just can’t seem to escape that very mysterious two-wheeler. Then come the visions of a world across a dimensional divide, a princess in fear for her life and a dark knight pursuing her. Are they just dreams or something more? For Charlee, everything she ever thought she knew about herself soon crumbles as she starts down a path to discover her true self, and she will need that hunk-of-junk bike more than she could ever imagine. Without it, she might not be able to find the hero in herself—the hero she must become to save her friends, family, her city—the world—from an evil only she can defeat. An evil she allows into this world.
Add to Goodreads
Theodora nodded. “As you wish.” The sorceress drew back her hand and slung Charlee and the bike clear across the city.
They hurtled uncontrollably through the night. But this time, Theodora was not going to stop their fall. The bike spun out of control, its wings flailing uselessly. It seemed…unconscious.
Have to…wake it…up…or we…die!
Charlee reached out for the bike. She had to snag a handlebar, a pedal, a wing—anything to make contact.
Come on! Reach. Reach! Reach!
The city rushed by beneath her. She flew by one rooftop, then another. She craned her neck to glance ahead.
Oh my God!
A skyscraper stood directly in their path. They would smash into the glass exterior in seconds.
Try…again! Reach for the bike! Reach!
The fingers of her right hand touched the handlebars. Then she got a full grip and pulled herself onto the banana seat, but the bike did not respond to her presence.
“Bike, wake up!” No response. “Bike, we’re going to die!” Nothing. She steadied herself. This time, instead of shouting, she used thought to communicate.
She willed it to regain consciousness.
Bike, please! Wake up!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was clearly aimed at a younger audience. It has a fun plot with a lot of humor and action in it, and I think it’s a perfect coming of age story for a middle schooler to enjoy.
Charlee is a great main character, who really shows growth in her journey. She is 13, and struggling with real life problems – then added into the mix, all of a sudden she has a whole new world filled with magic to deal with. I think she is a relatable character, with a snarky personality, which I enjoyed.
Bike is worth mentioning. What a great side character. I won’t get into too much for fear of spoilers, but I just loved how unique this character was.
I thought the world building was decent. I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed toward the end, as Charlee learned who she really was. I think there was some info-dumping, and it threw me off a bit. However, the book is fast paced, and it’s a page turner. I was never bored.
Overall, I think this was a great read. Again, I would recommend this for a middle schooler, mostly, but as an adult, I found the story entertaining as well.
The Last Princess of Latura Book 2
A month has passed since fourteen-year-old Charlee Smelton discovered her magical abilities and faced her great aunt, Theodora, in a life or death struggle to protect Earth. A month has passed since she tricked Theodora back across the dimensional gateway that brought Theodora to Earth. Since then, Charlee—now fully aware that she is part of a noble bloodline from another world…another dimension…has grown stronger in her magic, aided by her protector, a shapeshifter sent to Earth to protect her.
But the terrible dreams won’t stop.
Theodora lives, and if Charlee’s dreams of death and fields of spilled blood are true, her great aunt has avenged herself on that world across the dimensional divide.
Charlee knows what she must do. The fight is not over. She must travel across the gateway to the home of her ancestors and face Theodora one more time. But doing so may cost Charlee more than her life. The same medallion her great aunt desires so much—a medallion Charlee possesses—could make her just as evil as her great aunt.
Can Charlee stave off the twisted tendrils of the medallion long enough to defeat Theodora—for good—or will evil consume her? Can she even survive so far from home? Her only hope may rest in the Lord of the Dragons, but that beast turned his back on her grandfather long ago…
Add to Goodreads
Calling on her magically heightened strength, she kicked the door. It didn’t budge, but the timber around the hinges cracked. She struck a second time. The door broke from the frame and fell forward. A wall of fire rushed through the opening, engulfing Charlee. She dropped to one knee and shielded her eyes.
The blinding flash muzzled her cries. Somehow, though, the layer of energy kept her alive—a glowing barrier between her flesh and the inferno. She could breathe, too, but the air had become thick. She could only manage short breaths.
“I have to move. Can’t fail.” Peering through her fingers, a swirling vortex of oranges, yellows and reds prevented her from seeing beyond a few feet in any direction.
Her mom’s thoughts returned.
Get up! Run through it! Straight ahead!
Her body trembled, and her heart pounded so fast it might burst from her chest. Her skin baked despite the protective shell. Blinking sweat from her eyes, she charged through the firestorm.
Don’t stop…don’t stop until you’re through,her mom urged.
Overhead, the house creaked in protest. Oh no! Burning timber plunged toward her. Diving out of the way, she broke through the flames. Behind her the fire roared. Ahead, the second-floor hallway lay darkened by charred mist.
Coughing, Charlee clutched her chest to quiet her wild heart and slow her breathing. Her legs wobbled and her head drooped. Hot tears formed. She couldn’t help it.
Still have a chance. Must press on.
Standing tall, she lifted her head.
You’re not going to beat me, fire.
“Sir, where are you?” she called to the little girl’s dad. “Can you hear me? Sir…”
I think Guardian’s Return is a bit better than Guardian’s Nightmare. This is probably because we get to see more magic. This was a bit more fast paced, and I felt myself getting excited toward the end to see what happened.
I think Charlee has grown as a character. She is well aware of what she needs to do, but is still timid – which makes her relatable. She still has a bit of an attitude, and I love that about her.
The world building and lore of the world is much more fleshed out in this book. You learn a great deal about the past events that led to the present circumstances. I really enjoy when a second book has purpose and isn’t just a bridge to a third book.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. It has a lot of heart, action and it keeps you entertained. I think the magic system is unique, and I’m definitely interested in checking out the next book.
About the Author
Darren Simon resides in Southern California where he works as a college English teacher after a career as a newspaper journalist. His love for writing began with a love for reading when his grandmother gave him a wonderful gift—a brown paper bag filled with comic books from the 1960s and ’70s. From there, he moved on to Choose Your Own Adventure books. Eventually he discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, which solidified his interest in writing epic fantasy and science fiction tales.
So far, he has focused his writing on middle grade and young adult fiction to inspire young readers just as he was inspired to read and write at a young age.
He self-published his first novel though iUniverse and immediately went on to write the second book in the series. Upon completing the second book, he decided to seek more traditional publishing. After countless rejection letters, a small independent publisher—Divertir Publishing—decided to pick up the series, a fantasy about a teen-aged girl who learns her family is actually from an alternate dimension, and only she has the power to protect Earth from a sorceress from her world—who just happens to be her great aunt. Divertir republished the first book, titled, Guardian’s Nightmare, in 2015. The second book in the series, Guardian’s Return was released in April.
Darren has also written another series—a young adult historical pirate fantasy set in the golden age of piracy, mixing historical pirates and pirate hunters with his fictional characters in a time-traveling, swashbuckling tale. The first book in that series, The Dangerous Legacy, was published in 2016 by Tell-Tale Publishing. The second book in the series, The Deadly Waters, is due out later this year.
All his books are available at Amazon.com and Barnes&noble.com.
Darren, who lives with his wife, Sandra and two sons, Daniel and Jacob, and two crazy dogs, in the Valley, is continuing to write and develop new stories, including a young adult novel now in the hands of literary agency.
$15 Amazon gift card
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!
Tour Hosted By:
If enjoy middle grade fantasy, these are definitely fun books. If you pick them up, I’d love to hear your thoughts.