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CAUTION: SpoilersThe Substitute
and Into the Lion's Den
are two versions of the same love story. Into the Lion's Den
(ItLD) is the what-if of Guntram meeting Repin first instead of Konrad. You can read either version first, but reading both will resolve a few loose-ends that weren't satisfied with one version of the story alone.
Though Guntram suffered worse events in ItLD, he got a better ending than the one in The Substitute
(TS). Guntram was free to love Konrad as an equal partner while keeping his independence intact. Readers might argue that Guntram got the same thing in TS, but I remain unconvinced that Konrad will keep his promise of allowing Guntram his independence at the end. It was too convenient for Konrad to have the consort-ring in his pocket to give to Guntram after Konrad supposedly accepted to Guntram breaking up with him. I believe he falsely accepted the breakup to make Guntram realize his love for Konrad. Basically he manipulated Guntram all the way to the story's end for him to love Konrad again. In ItLD, Guntram is truly independent in the sense that Guntram had the option to leave Konrad and remain alive. Sure, he got the same option in TS near the end but in ItLD his chances of surviving the break-up with Konrad (in the literal sense) is alot higher because Guntram's father protects him. Yes, in this version, his father is well and alive.
I like that Guntram's father is alive because he was the only sensible one. By sensible I mean only he seem to think Guntram is wacko for continually loving two mob-bosses. Readers got to know the reason why his father gave Guntram up to Konrad after the de Lisle's attempted take-over of the Order. This is one example of the loose-ends that wasn't satisfactorily resolved in TS. Also in TS, Guntram suffered the loss of his family for most of the story, in more ways than one, almost to the point of leaving Konrad forever. In ItLD, he got one of them back, the one that actually cares for him.
However, what the story gains in this version and it lost in TS. ItLD didn't have the same emotional connection between Konrad and Guntram with readers, that is there were more romance in TS than ItLD. ItLD didn't have the twins as young boys doing all sort of mischief. They were good for comedy relief and gave the story its cuteness. It didn't have the French translation footnotes. There was a conversation between Guntram and Repin when they first met in chapter one that was in untranslated French. Fortunately, I took French in high school so I got the gist of what they were saying. Nonetheless, the footnotes were needed. ItLD also didn't have strong supporting characters. In TS, readers got to follow the subplots of Ferdinand & Monika, Jean Jacques & Alexei, and the others. We came to care for them as well along with Guntram and Konrad. But in ItLD, there was none of that.
However, readers do get to know what Frederich's relationship was to Konrad if they managed to catch the very subtle hint...Frederich acted as Konrad's mother in place of his actual but absent mother and it wasn't because he was the butler. It was hinted that Frederich had a more than professional relationship with Konrad's father. Seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Though there were some editing errors in ItLD, it was alot less than the edition of TS that I read (I think it was the 1st). There was nothing major that would distract readers, or at least me, and thus was largely tolerable. Errors included the sometime misuse of apostrophe, mistaking "sensible lad" for "sensitive lad", and mistaking an "on time" for an "in time" in the first paragraph.
Though TS was a more compelling story, I slightly prefer ItLD because it had a better ending for Guntram. Even though I dislike Guntram for his head-banging-on-wall naivety, I still wish the best for him. Here, there was less angst, although it might have what made TS so compelling.
On a sidenote, I wish Repin got killed for the way he treated people around Guntram. Don't know why Guntram still considered Repin as kind when Repin basically murdered everyone who flirted with Guntram. Hence the head-banging-on-wall naivety... Konrad is only better in that department, but not by much. This version only reinforces my belief that Konrad was the lesser evil of the two when it comes to loving Guntram.
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