Hello, everyone! Today I’m finally finishing my review of A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland. This MM fantasy romance is available now wherever books are sold. So, if it sounds like something you’d be into, be sure to check it out!
The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.
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.
***Thank you to Tor.com for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I immediately knew I wanted to read this book the second I saw the stunning cover. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I had to know the story of Kadou and Evemer because there was no way it couldn’t be epic with a cover like that one. The synopsis just made me anticipate reading it even more. Political conspiracy and intrigue on top of a MM bodyguard romance? I’m sold.
I was fascinated by both the world and its magic system. It had a distinct culture, but I wanted more from the world-building. For example, I never really got a good sense of what the prince’s royal duties actually were on a day to day basis. There was plenty of him having meals, taking baths, and spending time with his bodyguards, but he rarely ever did anything else. I get that he was the spare, but the book made it seem like he had quite a few official roles, as well. I felt like I never really got to see him in that element, and it was a bit of a disappointment. The magic was also a bit of a let down. I enjoyed the idea of the touch-tasters and liked the instances where it was addressed or incorporated. I just wanted more of it. Magic was a surprisingly small element in this story, and I would like to have seen the powers and their different uses explored in more depth.
I enjoyed the writing. The dialogue, both internal and external, was well-written and did a great job of bringing the characters to life. The plot and pacing were a bit hit or miss for me, though. I liked the romance aspects of the story, but the rest of it seemed like an afterthought. The mystery felt like the plot device that it was from the very beginning, and it was so very obvious. It didn’t help that the characters made nonsensical choices like leaving the baby princess alone in a place the enemy knew about, with only a relatively small guard. There was also an instance right after they discovered the villain where the main characters just go to bed together seemingly without informing the sultan what they found out. The ending didn’t help these problems either because the resolution of the conspiratorial scheme was super anticlimactic and didn’t even involve the main characters.
The anxiety and LGBT rep in this book were both quite good. I frequently struggle with anxiety rep in books. On the one hand, I love seeing that part of me represented in literature and the characters I read. On the other hand, it often makes internal dialogue repetitive and tedious to read, which is totally on point because that is what it is like to constantly live with anxious thoughts. This author did such a great job of writing the thoughts that I didn’t mind the repetition, but it was definitely there enough to be noticeable. As for the LGBT rep, there were bi+ people a plenty, and the inclusion of so many characters that fell outside the gender binary was a pleasant surprise.
You might be thinking this is an incredibly negative review. You’d be wrong! I loved the romance in this SO MUCH. The yearning was almost painful to read at times. There wasn’t a ton of spice, but I enjoyed what was there. So many of the scenes were agonizing because it was crystal clear that the sexual tension was electric, but the characters just wouldn’t give in to it. The author clearly has a talent for writing characters and relationship dynamics. The way the characters speak to each other and think about one another will definitely get your heart racing, and there were even several instances where it would have been embarrassing for me to read this in public… The super anxious and stoic pairing of the characters just worked so well together. All I wanted was for them to realize they belong together forever because they complemented each other perfectly.
I really liked all the characters, as well. Evemer was stoic and disciplined on the outside and a mushy marshmallow on the inside. I loved him from the start and initially wanted to protect him from Kadou’s messy self. At first, I didn’t like Kadou that much, but he grew on me much the same way he grew on Evemer. At the beginning, I found him to be whiny despite his immense privilege until I understood his anxiety better and the weight he created for himself with his expectations for his actions in regard to the kingdom. My favorite character, though, was Tadek. Can we get a series on his exploits? He was fun, flirty, and absolutely hilarious. His budding friendship with Evemer was comedy gold and had me giggling all the time.
All in all, this was a great fantasy romance. It was a little light on the fantasy aspects, though. If you are looking for a MM romance filled with so much yearning it hurts, then this is definitely the book for you. Just don’t expect an epic political conspiracy or tons of magic because that is not really what this book brings to the table. I’m going to give this one five stars because I loved the romance and characters in this one just as much as I expected. It probably could have been an all-time favorite if the fantasy elements had been a little stronger.