BLOG TOUR STOP~ URCHIN KING BY KATHARINA GERLACH
Title- Urchin King
By- Katharina Gerlach
Genre-YA/ Middle Grade/Fantasy
For fourteen years, street-urchin Paul's miserable existence has kept him safe from an ancient law that sentences all second-born twins to death. When he learns he is the younger twin of the mentally handicapped Crown Prince who's in danger of being killed for his disability, he agrees to play the role of the miraculously healed royal heir.
Paul struggles to learn how to act like a born ruler, but finds that his greatest skill, getting by unnoticed, is now his greatest liability. He knows if he is discovered, he will be executed like all second-born twins. When a vengeful sorcerer threatens the kingdom, Paul is the only one who can oppose him. But using his unique talents will expose him. Now, he's got the choice. What is more important, his life or his family's and the kingdom's safety?
This is the beginning of the novel:
Paul felt the town’s outer wall against his back. Hunger gnawed at his intestines like a wolf and made sleeping impossible, but that was not new to him. He coped with the ache by remembering his lucky day two weeks back. Lilla had given him a whole loaf of bread, and he had been able to steal another later. He had shared the last moldy slice two days ago. Now he wished he had more. He pulled his skinny legs closer until the pain subsided. Then he sat up and looked at his friends sleeping on the bare ground beside him. All of them were skinny, unkempt and reeked of stale sweat and dirt.
Seraphina’s wound smelled like decaying vegetables, sweet and sour. In the half-light of early morning, Paul could almost make out the grubs eating the rotting flesh. The nimble fingers and fleet feet of the thirteen year old girl had been sorely missed. Despite being two years younger than the others, she was the best provider of the gang. She clung to her sister, Amanda, as if her life depended on it, their auburn and brown curls mingling on the ground. Seraphina moaned in her sleep and Paul’s heart ached at his inability to help her. He knew that the flies’ larvae would do a much better job at cleaning the wound than he could.
Another pang of hunger made him wince. He reached for the jug. It sometimes helped to drink. Unfortunately, most of the water had leaked through a crack in the side. I’ll have to get fresh water. He drank what was left and crawled through the entrance of the derelict shed that served as the gang’s shelter. It leaned against the town’s outer wall as if built by a drunken carpenter. Paul scanned the gloomy dead end alley. It was hardly more than a trampled path at the back of the neglected timber-frame houses of the poor. He made out Torben, the leader of his chosen family, who stood watch at the mouth of the narrow alley, a hardly visible silhouette in the dark.
Torben signaled an all-clear. Paul pushed his long, black hair firmly behind his ears and walked toward him. “We should fix the roof,” he said.
“And you will conjure the materials, right?” Torben didn’t move a muscle, but his voice was loud enough for Paul to hear.
He sighed and changed the subject. “Anything I should know?”
“Guards are around early. Where’re you headed?”
“To get some fresh water.”
Torben scratched his forehead. “Go to the upper well. They pulled a drowned rat from the one downtown. Council declared the water spoiled and closed it.”
Paul sighed and nodded. Somehow, Torben always knew what was going on in Wynburgh. Paul hated getting water from the upper well. It was a much longer walk than to the lower well, and the residents chased the beggar kids away. The only consolation was that he would be close to his former home.
“Then I’ll visit Lilla,” he said.
“Won’t be up yet.” Torben pointed to the little bit of visible sky. A few stars blinked in the small gap between the roofs.
Paul shrugged and left. He knew Lilla better. Fondly, he recalled her embraces. It made him feel warm and loved — something he missed more than he would admit. She was the closest person to a mother he could remember, and provided he didn’t rouse the house, he could wake her at any time.
She might even be up already, he thought. After all, it’s the Mother’s Day today.
The alleys of the poorest quarter in town were deserted. Most of the beggars wouldn’t rise before dawn. When Paul reached the streets where the farmers lived he kept close to the houses. The entrances provided at least some cover should he encounter any guards. They kept much better vigil in those areas where the farmers paid them additional money for catching thieves. Behind the big doors of the barns, pigs grunted in their sleep and chickens clucked. The air reeked of the pigs’ lovage-like stench and the sharp, tangy odor of cows.
At the first possible place, Paul turned onto the gutter road, an unpaved path behind the houses. He was able to ignore the fetid smell because the gatherers had already passed through to sell the manure to the farmers first thing in the morning. During the day it was impossible to walk this way without slipping on the squishy mess, but this early in the morning it was the least guarded way to the better quarters of town, and the fastest.
It took Paul a while to reach the quarter where the nobles lived. Their houses were bigger than most townhouses and surrounded by generous gardens. He found his way to the smooth wall surrounding the garden of Lilla’s employers, and effortlessly scaled it . Even if he hadn’t known the handholds by heart, he’d have no problems scaling the wall. He was the best climber in town. On the other side, he dropped to his knees. Before he could straighten up properly, the massive body of a dog slammed into him. It knocked the breath out of him and the weight of the she-dog nailed his shoulders to the wall. Her hot breath smelled of rotten meat as her jaw with inch-long canines neared his face.
This is closer to the end of the novel when Paul, the main character, gets his first kiss ever:
They rode through the cold autumn air, and soon the ache in Paul’s head faded. When they passed the edge of the forest, he spurred his pony. Heloise followed, and they cantered toward Wynburgh. When the turrets of the city walls came in sight, Paul reined his pony in. He dismounted, patted the pony and whispered his goodbyes. It would raise too many suspicions if he rode any further.
“Take good care of him,” he said to Heloise.
The princess shook her head and dismounted too. “I’m not leaving you.”
Paul sighed. “You can’t come along. It’s too dangerous.”
“I am used to danger.”
“Heloise, I need to do this on my own.” He looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. “I know every nook and cranny in that town, and I know how to blend in. If I don’t want to be seen, no one will set eyes on me.” He knew the reasons were weak but he found it impossible to tell her that he would worry about her too much.
Heloise set her jaw and ripped his pony’s reins from his hands. “Leave me alone then. I don’t care one bit.” She turned to her horse as if to leave. Then, she turned again, threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.
Paul was so shocked that he didn’t move.
She pressed her lips on his nose. “Come back alive, please.” She let go of him, jumped on her horse and galloped off without looking back, dragging Paul’s pony along.
Open mouthed, Paul stared after her. The sensation of her body’s firm softness pressed against his lingered for a long time, and his heart beat as fast as if he had run. He couldn’t move until the tingling in his nose subsided.
About the Author-
Katharina Gerlach has had her head in the clouds from her birth. She and her three younger brothers lived secret lives in the heart of a forest in Germany. After climbing every available tree with imagination as her guide, she learned to read and disappeared into magical adventures, past times or eerie fairytale woods.
She never reached the ground properly although she did manage to successfully train as a landscape gardener, study forestry, and crown it with a PhD in Science. One day, she realized that she’d have to write if she wanted her dreams to become real. Her first novel was unpublishable and shall never see the light of day without major revision (if at all). But her stories improved and now, they even sell. Katharina writes Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Historical Novels for all age groups.
At present, she is working on her next project in a small house near Hildesheim, Germany, where she lives with her husband, three children, and a dog (who ground her enough that she won’t fly away on imaginary wings).
Please visit Katharina’s website (www.katharinagerlach.com), like her Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/KatharinaGerlach.Autorin), or follow her on twitter (@CatGerlach).