“His parents are gone. He lives in the woods…”
Dash is a dark lion with a dark secret. Living as an orphan in the cold, winter forest, he strives to hide that secret from the other young animals that have come to resent him. But when he meets the animal that has haunted his past, he isn’t sure what to do.
Meanwhile, Saderia finally gets her wish to go to school. She hopes to meet a friend, but she gets slightly more than she bargained for when she meets a fun-loving cheetah, a bullying panther, three prissy girls, prejudiced teachers, and a strange assistant principal who seems to enjoy making Saderia’s life more difficult. But there is no one as strange as the dark lion that sits in the back, and hides his face from her.
Saderia starts having Dreams again, but even though she knows what they are, she still doesn’t understand them. At the same time, she struggles to accept the prophecy she learned about in her ancestor’s tomb. But why do her Dreams and her instinct always direct her toward the dark lion who seems to fear her?
As the two animals get to know each other, Saderia wonders if Dash is hiding something, while Dash realizes that it is much harder to keep secrets from friends.
Past vs. Present
The dark brown lion gazed up at the darkening sky above, thinking once again of the events that had led him out there. As he watched, a single star began to shimmer in the black sky. Stifling a sigh, he lowered his head and padded over to the thick patch of trees and bushes. Leafy trees hung over and sheltered a certain place in the clearing; below it was a soft patch of flattened grass: his sleeping place.
Dashenirus padded over to the grassy patch and laid down to fall asleep, shivering and curling up so that the darker brown tuft on his tail touched his face. It was colder than usual that night and he didn’t have a normal den or even a blanket to keep himself warm…but then, he had been living that way for a while. More stars began to appear in the sky and a full moon appeared beside them, shimmering down on him.
The lion shook his mane of darker brown fur over his eyes to block the light, and tried to fall asleep, half hoping he wouldn’t wake up tomorrow. But no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on sleeping, his mind kept jumping back to all the things that had caused him to be sleeping out in the freezing cold. Twigs in his sleeping place kept poking him awake. His stomach growled since there was not much food except for the few berries he could find. But it was how he came to be living in such a place that disturbed him.
All the things that he had done and all the things that had been done to him whirled around in his mind and a familiar pang of sorrow made his mouth taste salty. He felt a rush of anger as he thought once more about his father, but it was accompanied by a frustrating pang of grief. He hated that he missed his father, after what he had done. It was so much harder to miss him and hate him at the same time and he wasn’t sure why he should feel either emotion.
His father had been evil and Dashenirus had always hated him. Every miserable day of his life, he had hoped his father would be gone. But now he was, and he was no happier than he had been before, maybe even worse. At least when his father had been around he had had a warm house to sleep in and easy access to food, albeit it wasn’t the safest place with his Dad around.
On top of that, he always felt guilty when he thought of his father, knowing that he was partially responsible for his death. But what else could he have done? His father had needed to be stopped, and he had done what he’d had to. He had tried to do what was right, but that was the problem with him. No matter what he tried to do, he would always be a failure and everything he ever did would end horribly. He was not like his father; nothing would ever go his way, like his Dad had said so many times before.
At least, he hoped he was not like his father. No matter how much he might miss him, he hoped with all his heart that he would not end up like him, and so he tried to remember who he was. Not the easiest thing to do. He had tried to be himself around his father, but every time he had tried, he had gotten hurt because his father had hated his son being so different than him. After ten years of that, he just gave up trying. His father still hated him but he stopped caring about that, too, and stayed locked up in his old room.
Now that his father was gone and he was all alone, living out in the woods, he could barely remember who he was or who he was supposed to be. He felt no more freedom than he had before. His past still haunted him every day and night, and not a second would pass where he wouldn’t wish it would all disappear. The ghost of his father, and the mother he had never known, took up all his time and he could never stop thinking about them.
A cold breeze shook his fur, blowing his mane out away from him, and he curled in on himself more, trying in vain to protect himself from the cold. It was no use because the ground, normally a little bit soft, was frigid and hard with cold, it being the middle of winter. The trees above him were losing their leaves and didn’t provide much shelter either. Nothing was growing so it was hard to find food. He could always go back to his old house because he knew there was still some food left in the refrigerator, even if it had long staled, but he would never go back there. He had made a vow never to go back and he was terrified of that place since every horrible memory he had came from that house.
Everything around him was withering and dying away, making the scenery very depressing. It just made him think more and more of his gloomy past. The skeletons of the trees were all around him, making him think of his dead father so he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the images in his head. Why did everything have to remind him of his sordid past? His father’s memory would never stop haunting him.
And then there was his mother. He had never stopped wondering about her, even when his father had been alive. He wondered where she was and what she was doing, if she were more like his father or more like him? If she ever thought about him or about coming back? Maybe she wasn’t even alive anymore. How would he ever be able to find out anything about his mother? He had tried to before, but there was never anything he could find; it was hopeless.
Often, he had tried to find some memory of his mother that was untainted by his father, but he just couldn’t remember that far back. It was so long ago and no matter how much time he spent struggling to make some memory surface, he could think of nothing.
Sometimes he liked to hope that his mother was kinder than his father and more like him. He liked to think that someday she would return to find him, and the two of them could be a family without having to worry about his horrible past. But he knew that he was just deluding himself. There was no way that fantasy could ever come true, even if his mother was nice, which he somehow doubted. She had never cared about him; if she had, why would she have left ten years ago?
Still, sometimes he dreamed about his mother coming to him and telling him that it would be all right and she would take care of him, like he imagined mothers did. He would make up any number of excuses as to why she had left him with his father and believed that she was sorry, but he knew she probably wasn’t. He believed his father when he’d told him that she had never cared. He didn’t know why, but he did. The brief glimpses of her that he could remember were not the warm, loving ones anyone else could expect from a mother. He tried not to think about her.
Other times, he wondered about the Princess. What had happened to her during the time that he had runaway to the woods after his father had died? Was she all right, and was she with her family now? When he wasn’t thinking about that, he wondered why he should care at all. Why should he care about her; why shouldn’t he hate her? But the fact of the matter was that he didn’t, and he was glad he didn’t, even if it just gave him something else to worry about.
Eventually he was able to fall asleep when his troubled thoughts acted as some twisted lullaby. Like every other night, his dreams were disturbed by horrible visions of his father, and the fight that had surely taken place, ending in his Dad’s death. But he also dreamt of all the awful things his father had done and all the awful things he had tried to make his son do; all the monsters he had tried to make him become. He had refused every time; it had ended badly.
With a cry of fear, he awoke a few hours before morning would officially start and let out a sigh of relief that he was safe. But that relief didn’t last long. He was still in the woods and just as miserable as before. He didn’t want to go back to sleep for fear of the nightmares that would torment him, and he knew that sleeping would be hopeless anyway.
Instead, he got to his paws, stretching his limbs and trying to ignore the ache from sleeping on the hard ground. He had thought he would have gotten used to it by now, but apparently not. He walked over to the closest berry bush he could see and looked hopelessly at the measly, dying berries left after enduring the cold. On second thought, maybe he would save them for later.
He padded back to his nest and flopped down on the ground, looking up at the dark sky as it began to get lighter. Not for the first time, he wondered why he was enduring all of this. Why didn’t he just give up? What exactly was he working toward? Nothing, so why did he keep going; it was stupid. He sighed, knowing that no matter what he thought, he couldn’t just give up. What else could he do? Starve to death?
Even though he had no other options, he still wished that he could be anywhere but here, living this miserable life, but there wasn’t an alternative and wishing just made him sadder. He wondered why he had been forced to live out here and suffer when he had never done anything to anybody. Why should he deserve this when he had always strived to be nice? When he had put up with everything else, including his father’s dark influence, even now after he was dead?
Thinking about this prompted something his father had said to come to mind: Weak animals never get what they want; they just get stepped on. Strong, ambitious animals can have anything their heart desires. Dashenirus took a deep breath and started toward the tiny pile of things he had taken with him when he had runaway, when he’d hoped he could make a better future for himself, even when the present seemed so impossible.
“I guess you were right, Dad,” he muttered, as he started to get ready for school.
“Ms. Ceril?” the black panther asked, surprised. “What are you doing in my office so early?”
The bobcat seemed very uncertain about what she was going to do. She had started out regretting her decision but she knew it was for her family and she had already served the school for a long time. But now she was even more uncertain and she took a deep breath before saying, “Principal Delaca, I have to quit.”
The principal’s eyes blinked open in surprise. He got to his feet. “Quit? But you’ve been excellent here for many years. Why would you want to quit now?”
“My family is moving to another neighborhood and it’s about time for me to retire anyway. I’ve enjoyed working here but now I just want to settle down with my family.”
Principal Delaca thought about that and started to protest but then let out a sigh. “You know I can’t keep you here if you don’t want to stay. And I understand what you’re saying. But you have been a great assistant principal for many years.”
“Thank you, Mr. Delaca. But my mind is set.”
He nodded a little sadly. “I understand. I’ll mail you your last salary.”
He sat back down, even more stressed now that he had to deal with Assistant Principal Ceril quitting, on top of the other thing he would soon have to face. “But where am I going to find a replacement?” he said after a moment. “It’d be best to get a new assistant principal sooner rather than later because of…”
“I know. I understand. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’ve looked around for a quick replacement after I’ve gone. What with the tiger who’s coming, I knew you’d be stressed without someone else. So I have already found a replacement.”
He sat up, interested. “You have? That’s very thoughtful. Who?”
That was the part that she was the most nervous about but she quickly handed him a manila folder with the replacement’s credentials and information. She didn’t know what it was about the animal that was to replace her, but she just didn’t like something about her. Nonetheless, the documents seemed secure and the principal needed an assistant, especially with an important new student coming. A new student they weren’t exactly happy to welcome.
The principal quickly looked over the papers concealed within the folder and then nodded slowly. “Impressive. She seems to be just what we’re looking for. Maybe not as good as you have been, and lacking a little experience, but she seems to be a good choice.”
Ms. Ceril nodded, trying to feel more optimistic about what was going to happen. “We should go meet her and tell her that she’s going to be the new assistant principal.”
“You’re right.” The black panther took another look at the papers listing where the new employee lived and then signaled for the bobcat to join him. “It’s not too far away from here,” he reported. “You should come, too. Maybe you could give her some quick tips.”
She smiled faintly. “All right.”
The two animals walked out of the school and started down a path that would lead them to the new animal’s address. They had to leave the path and cross through a swath of woods but they were forest animals and used to it, leaping nimbly over bushes and roots in the way. It wasn’t long before they reached a house out in the middle of the woods. It was very out-of-the-way, they noticed, but then, some animals preferred to live away from towns and big neighborhoods.
The principal walked up to knock on the door and a moment later it opened to reveal a stunning lioness. She had bright, cream-colored fur but her features were sharp and somewhat cold looking. Her ice blue eyes seemed to bore into them and she wore a knowing half-smile that looked more like a sneer. Mr. Delaca noticed there was something about this animal he was a little uncertain about, like Ms. Ceril, but he ignored it, knowing that was silly. He just smiled at the lioness, warmly but professionally.
“Hello,” he said. “I’m Principal Delaca of WildWorld Elementary. Are you the one who spoke to Ms. Ceril before?”
Her little smirk grew a little wider. “I am.” “Good. Your credentials are impressive.” He noticed her sneer grew more knowing and even a little sarcastic, but ignored it as he went on, “And we need a replacement assistant principal as soon as possible. So, congratulations. You’re hired.”
She grinned. “Excellent.”
“We know it’s a little fast and we apologize for that, but it’d be best if you could start today. We’re getting ready for an important new student.”
Her eyes narrowed but her grin stayed in place. “No worries, I’ll be there. This new student—how important?
“She’s the Princess of the forest,” Ms. Ceril informed her.
“Ah. I’ll do what I can to deal with the…situation.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Delaca said happily. He paused. “What should we call you?”
Her ears flicked and she let out a little sound that could be laughter. “Call me Lolista.”
The meeting took place a few hours later, giving the two teachers that came plenty of time to attend it and then go back to their classrooms to prepare for the school day. Mr. Delaca busied himself by organizing the many papers on his desk and thinking about how much the new student would change the school once she arrived. All the students would be excited but some might feel put down and others might feel afraid that they had to act a certain way with her around. She would be snooty, stuck-up and have a too-good-for-education attitude, he guessed, gritting his teeth bitterly. He disliked anyone who thought and acted like that, and now he was going to have to come face-to-face with it and try to act respectfully, for his sake.
Eventually, a leopard with moss green eyes stepped in the room. Her spots were unusual, formed in a strange pattern, and the orange color of her fur was slightly darker than normal. She was followed by a broad-shouldered white tiger with warm, sky blue eyes. “Ms. Spot, Ms. Zanah,” he greeted the two animals.
The leopard had a kind but strict attitude and she quickly went over to sit before her boss in the two chairs, along with the white tiger. They had been told that a new student was coming to the school and that was why they had been called in to the meeting with the principal, but it usually wasn’t that big of a deal. Why was it so important now?
“Why did you call us here?” the leopard asked curiously.
“As I’m sure you’ve been told, a new student is coming to WildWorld Elementary,” Mr. Delaca told them with a hard expression. “Normally, it isn’t too big of a concern, even in the middle of the semester like this, but it is now because the animal who will be joining us is Princess Saderia.”
The two animals sat up straighter and instantly understood why this was such a problem. A Princess coming to a normal public school like theirs was definitely something to be worried about.
“You’ve already guessed what that’ll be like,” Mr. Delaca told them, noticing their reactions. “You know how a Princess will be. She’ll be stuck-up and think that she’s too good to learn. I don’t know what the King and Queen were thinking when they arranged for her to go here, but it can’t be helped now. She obviously won’t be bothered to try to learn anything since her future is already set and all she has to do is look good and please her parents. With a future as good as being the next Queen of the forest, why should she care about education?”
“We understand,” Ms. Spot hissed bitterly. “A Princess will be nothing but trouble. I mean, think of how the other children will react!”
“Not to mention, Queen Karenisha and King Makero will be breathing down our necks all the time that she’s here,” Ms. Zanah added. “If we do one thing to her, like get mad at her apathetic attitude, then we’ll be in some very serious trouble with the King and Queen.”
“Exactly,” Mr. Delaca replied through gritted teeth. “She’ll set a bad example for everyone else and make the school year so much harder. But if we try to discipline her, the King and Queen will be very mad, and they could even shut our school down! All because of one snooty, stupid Princess.” He growled to himself but continued more calmly, “You can see why it is so important now, I assume. I want you two to be her teachers. Ms. Spot, you can be very strict and I want you to be her homeroom teacher. Ms. Zanah, you will teach math and science for one of her periods. Are you clear on your positions?”
They both nodded quickly.
“Good,” he went on, speaking directly to Ms. Spot. “You will need to be strict with her to at least attempt to get her to care about education and not act like a snob. Don’t let her set a bad example for the other children. But you always have to be gentle and not give the King and Queen any reason to be mad at us. It’s a tough job, but I think you’ll be able to handle it. Do you understand what you need to do?”
“Yes, Principal Delaca.”
“Good. Class will begin soon so both of you should get back to your classrooms. Princess Saderia is coming today so make sure you’re ready.”
As the teachers got up to return to their duties and prepare for the ordeal they would soon have to face, they heard Principal Delaca mutter under his breath, “Princess Saderia will be the worst thing ever to come to WildWorld Elementary.”
The Tiger Princess: 978-0615321264
Hunted Home: 978-1463541590
Enchanted Home: 978-1477453360
Rock Bottom: 978-1484840320
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure
Ebook on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dash-Saderia-Book-2-ebook/dp/B0055F5P0U/
Sarah Renée has loved writing from an early age. She has been writing short stories since the age of 4, and at the age of 10, she came up with the idea for The Tiger Princess. She wrote the novel when she was 12. She is fascinated with wild animals and the wild world outside her home, and has an obvious great love of tigers. She enjoys spending time with her cats, reading, drawing, and playing her violin when she is not writing. In her free time, she is constantly daydreaming about her many characters, creating new ones, and coming up with interesting adventure story ideas. She is now 17 years old.
Visit Sarah Renée’s website at www.thetigerprincess.com or her blog at http://www.thetigerprincess.com/blogsnews.html to learn more about Sarah Renée, her books, and more! You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
The Saderia Series Virtual Book Tour Schedule
Book 1 review at This Little Book of Mine
Interview at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection
Guest post at Bookingly Yours
Book 1 review at YAdult Review
First chapter reveal for Book 1 at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at Between the Covers
Series spotlight at Literal Exposure
Book 1 spotlight at Classic Children’s Books
Book 1 review at Classic Children’s Books
Interview at Pump Up Your Book
Guest post at The Crypto-Capers Review
Interview at Blogcritics
Guest post and giveaway at The Busy Mom’s Daily
Book 2 spotlight at Paperback Writer
Book 2 review at This Little Book of Mine
Interview at Examiner
First chapter reveal for Book 2 at CelticLady’s Reviews
Book 1 review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Book 2 review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Guest post at Literarily Speaking
Series spotlight at Thoughts in Progress
Guest post at 4 the Love of Books
Series spotlight at 4 the Love of Books
Series spotlight at The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection
Book tour highlights at The Book Rack