It was the comparison with The Goblin Emperor that snagged my attention to this particular offering. It’s one of my favourite fantasy political intrigue reads of all time, so I was very happy to dive into anything else that might strum that vibe. Would I be disappointed?
BLURB: Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.
To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.
REVIEW: This one immediately jumps into the story, to the extent that I wondered if there was a previous book in the series that I’d missed. There wasn’t, so I settled in and before long I was utterly hooked. Kadou is an interesting male protagonist. Highly strung and prone to fits of nervous prostration that leave him with devastating self-loathing, he is all too aware that he doesn’t deal effectively with the cadre of elite bodyguards trained to tend to his every need. In fact, he doesn’t feel that he does anything all that effectively. And that’s a real problem right now, because there has been a worrying break-in that unaccountably isn’t being properly dealt with. It doesn’t help that his sister, the ruling matriarch of their land, has recently given birth to a daughter, so she passes the task for looking into this problem to Kadou. During a hunting trip, there is a disastrous event that leads to the death of two of his guards and the disgrace of his captain. So there is a vacancy for the newly qualified and utterly dedicated over-achiever, Evermer.
I’ll be honest – the growing relationship between Evermer and Kadou wasn’t the main reason for picking this one up and I was far more interested in the conspiracy and Kadou’s interestingly conflicted personality. That said, the romance is skilfully handled. While there is the inevitable misunderstanding that characterises their early relationship, the growing attraction between them is portrayed with tenderness and humour that won me over to the extent that by the end of the book I was thoroughly rooting for the couple to overcome the hurdles ranged against them.
I enjoyed the magic, where some adepts are able to trace the purity of metals they touch while some are gifted, or cursed, with the ability to know if someone is lying. However, I did feel the intricacies of the magic system was a bit under-developed and I would have liked to know more about how many of the population had magic, for instance. And whether Kadou’s synesthetic experience regarding his magical talent is the norm. The book also ended rather abruptly – I strongly feel there should be a second book in the offing to complete the narrative arc, though there isn’t any sign that this is a series on Goodreads or Amazon. And for both these reasons, I have knocked a point off what would have been a ten for me, with a compelling, complicated character and a lushly written backdrop that doesn’t hold up the action. This author is One to Watch and comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of A Taste of Gold and Iron from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.