Dana and Marc review King Mai (The Lost and Founds Book 2) by Edmond Manning (Published by Pickwick Ink Publishing, July 13, 2013, 322 pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
To read the duo review of King Perry click here.
Blurb: Adopted from Thailand and never one to fit in with the local bubbas, life has been rough around the edges for Mai Kearns, even before he came out of the closet. Now, almost ten years past the torture of high school, Mai still can’t catch a break: he and his parents stand to lose their beloved farm.
How will a “King Weekend” help change Mai’s fate? What has narrator Vin Vanbly been up to for the four weeks he’s been sneaking around Mai’s hometown? At the urging of a ransom note from ‘The Lost Kings,’ Mai embarks on an impossible treasure hunt chasing mystic poetry, Fibonacci Hopscotch, ancient prophecy, the letter ‘x,’ and a confounding, penguin-marching army.
The stakes are high: if Mai fails, the Lost Kings will permanently claim him as their own. Finding the treasure may unlock the secret to saving his family farm. But can this angry farmer risk opening his broken heart before the weekend is over? Mai Kearns has 40 hours to get very, very curious in this second installment of The Lost and Founds.
Dana – Although this is the second book of the series, this story takes place prior to book 1, King Perry. King Mai’s story is very different from Perry’s just as the two characters are different from each other.
Vin Vanbly is a lot less confident in this story. He is less experienced, and I can see how he doubts himself at times. He is as whimsical as ever, with his random thoughts about his favorite letters and words. I really love that he is always thinking about the meanings and sounds and the importance of using them correctly. His thoughts make me feel like I take too much for granted in my speaking and in the whole world.
Though Vin is normally a mechanic he has another job, to find the lost kings from stories he has learned. Each king has a different gift or talent and Vin tells their tales throughout the story to help the lost kings remember who they are. The stories themselves are fascinating, but the little adventures and set ups that Vin puts in place prior to the “King” weekend are amazing. Almost unbelievable that he was capable of such forethought.
Mai’s origins are from Thailand but he was adopted by a couple from DeKalb, Illinois and raised on their farm growing corn. (As a side note, I liked that the story takes place in DeKalb because it is a town near me, and I could relate to all the corn fields and the small town feel.) Mai loves the corn and loves working on the farm, but he is a bit bitter about the small town life. His Asian heritage was a cause for a lot of bullying as a kid. Being gay also made him stand out from his peers. A past relationship has left him feeling betrayed and broken and he has closed himself off from friendships and romantic relationships. As much as he loves his parents’ farm, part of him dreams of leaving the town where he has experienced a lot of pain.
Running through the corn fields and visiting bars and restaurants in town in search of a way to help save Mai’s parents farm also serves the purpose of helping Mai discover who he is as a found king. Though most everything that happens to Mai and Vin during the weekend can be explained, there is such a magical feel on a king weekend. It fills me with wonder and awe as they journey. It is not easy for Mai to blindly accept what Vin tells him and what he asks of him and for a moment it almost seems as if kinging Mai will be impossible. However, Mai’s King identity helps save the day.
As with King Perry, King Mai is a bittersweet title. Vin Vanbly puts his whole heart into helping the lost kings find themselves. He loves with his whole heart even though he is only with these men for one lone weekend. Mai cannot help his heart from engaging either, but they both know that they only have the one weekend. They love each other in every way possible for that weekend but have to say good-bye. I don’t feel sadness at their parting necessarily. I would love to see both of them fall in love and stay together forever, or even to find out that they found love individually after the weekend, but this story is not about the happy ever after. This is a personal journey for each king and for Vin as well since he is still lost.
As each book continues I fall in love with Vin Vanbly more. The way he helps the kings touches me, and his past as it’s slowly revealed make me want to comfort him. I look forward to reading more books in this series, and I hope that at some point we might learn that the kings have found love as well as themselves. Until then, I look forward to the everyday magic that happens for the other kings. I definitely recommend this book and the whole series.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Marc – It was not easy for me to write this review. ‘King Mai’ is my favorite book in ‘The Lost and Founds’ series, but it is all about how it made me feel. The story is absolutely intriguing and magical and weird and everything I love about this series, but it is the way the author manages to sneak behind any barriers that protect my heart and makes me feel everything that makes this book truly special.
It is important to mention that while this sequel takes place prior to ‘King Perry’, you should start with book one. ‘King Perry’ is a fantastic book and I don’t think I could have been so open about the magical realism and the direction of this book without reading it. Book one opened my heart and this one used the trust the author earned to safely guide me through an intensely emotional rollercoaster ride.
I grew up in a small town and as children we played in cornfields. They seemed endless and were a completely different world that belonged just to us. They inspired so much creativity and a feeling of true magic. With this book, Edmond Manning managed to recreate that magic years later.
I loved San Francisco as setting for book one. It is a big, beautiful city with its very own flair and magic and there is a certain magic to the anonymity of a big city, being a small part of something big. I loved that the author took this second journey into a different direction. The setting is a small village, where everyone seems to know each other and it was a wonderful twist for me. The kinging does not happen in perfect anonymity, where one just has to overcome their own pride. It has consequences in how people will see the main character in the future and interact with him.
His family, his friends, his town. They are all a part of this. Their stories intertwine in beautiful ways with Mai’s journey to become a king. He’s not alone. It is probably one of my favorite things about Mai and his path. Yes, there is a lot of anger burning in his heart and he does not know himself in the way he needs to, but he has such a warm and loving heart and truly cares for others and their stories.
Given that the events of this book take place before ‘King Perry’, it was interesting to see Vin, before he became as secure and smooth as he seemed in the first book. He needs more preparation and Plan Bs and questions himself again and again. It is easier to see the flawed human, who wants to help in the only way he knows. He is not yet the seemingly perfect magician with a mask to hide behind. He loves every man he kings with his whole heart, but doesn’t let them return the love in the way I think he needs. It must be exhausting to give and give and refuse to take what is freely offered in exchange.
I loved King Perry, because the book allowed me to see the beauty in the world around us again. The kindness that can be found in strangers, the magic that can be found in random moments and how the ability to forgive can unshackle someone from a weight that dragged them down. There is a freedom that can be found in letting go of anger. In King Mai it felt even more personal to me. The book encouraged me to see the magic in the connections we make with other people, with nature, with our home. Mai has a special connection with the land and his heart is so big that his friendship is a true gift.
There were some problems that arose for Mai from being a Thai adopted son of white, American farmers. He had to become tough to deal with it and there is a growing anger in him, but he was also deeply loved and cared for and has a home that is important to him. His king weekend becomes a fight to save his family farm and himself and for me this journey was truly special.
It takes until book 5 for Vin to find his own HEA, but you will find true love, hot sex and sacred friendships in this book. I can’t recommend enough that you take this magical journey with Vin and Mai and keep an open heart and mind. Fair warning, I had tears in my eyes more than once while reading this book. Especially the very end really touched me.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Edmond Manning has always been fascinated by fiction: how ordinary words could be sculpted into heartfelt emotions, how heartfelt emotions could leave an imprint inside you stronger than the real world. Mr. Manning never felt worthy to seek publication until recently, when he accidentally stumbled into his own writer’s voice that fit perfectly, like his favorite skull-print, fuzzy jammies. He finally realized that he didn’t have to write like Charles Dickens or Armistead Maupin, two author heroes, and that perhaps his own fiction was juuuuuuust right, because it was his true voice, so he looked around the scrappy word kingdom that he created for himself and shouted, “I’M HOME!” He is now a writer.
In addition to fiction, Edmond enjoys writing non-fiction on his blog,www.edmondmanning.com. When not writing, he can be found either picking raspberries in the back yard or eating panang curry in an overstuffed chair upstairs, reading comic books.