Elin has lived all of his live in the Dragon’s palace. Ever since he was given to the Dragon who rules their city–a much beloved protector who keeps them safe from the outside world–by his obedient parents at a young age, Elin has been a member of her harem, kept amongst other men just like him. Elin, with his golden hair and golden skin, is sweeter and kinder than his adopted brothers and lost in a world of dreams.
Elin isn’t interested in wrestling or athletics, he isn’t interested in cards or board games or drinking. He’s also quite uninterested in joining into a physical relationship with anyone, least of all the Dragon. Elin would much rather spend his time reading, or thinking, or watching the way light falls through the leaves of the trees in the garden. His life is quiet and peaceful, every day like the day before until a new arrival is dragged into the palace, beaten and bound and desperately in need of a bath.
Elin, least of those in his wing of the harem, is given the task of bathing and tending to the man who is not only new to the palace, but has come from outside the city. Hakar talks of oceans and whales, ships and — most alarmingly, and most tantalizingly — of freedom. It’s a concept Elin has never dreamed of for himself, destined to spend the remainder of his days waiting on the whims of his draconic mistress.
Elin, whose one and only meeting with the Dragon went… poorly, to say the least, has never been interested in sex. He’s never felt anything but panic and distaste at the thought, but something about Hakar, with his pale, platinum hair and equally strange and lovely pale eyes awakens feelings Elin thought would sleep forever. He wants to do more than just dream about Hakar, he wants to… to touch, to taste; he wants Hakar.
Hakar has a few secrets of his own. He didn’t just happen upon this hidden city by accident, he came for a purpose and he came with a plan. Hakar came to steal the Dragon’s treasure, but after meeting with Elin, he plans to take home more than just gold and gems to make him and his crew rich. He intends to take Elin for himself. All he has to do is woo the beautiful young man, find the treasure, and escape back to his ship, all without being caught. Easy as anything, especially with Elin’s help.
Golden seems to want to be the story of a prince held captive by a dragon and rescued by a handsome knight, while at the same time evoking 1001 Arabian Nights and with a dash of Ocean’s Eleven. Unfortunately, this story lacks the whimsy of a fairy tale, the eroticism of an adventure in a harem, or the frenetic energy and clever planning of a heist. It’s a modest enough read, mostly inoffensive and mildly entertaining.
Elin’s character is a close cousin to Gary Stu. He’s good, and sweet, and clever, and brave, and beautiful, and virginal. Virginal until he meets Hakar, that is, after which point he wants nothing more than to wrap himself up in Hakar’s arms and make magical, passionate love to him. Elin is very much a victim of the “out for you” trope. Up until he meets the dashing, roguish hero, Elin is rather blatantly asexual. He isn’t interested in sex at all. In fact, he makes it clear to his fellow harem brethren that he doesn’t want to so much as hold hands with them. They accept this and leave him to his own devices easily enough. But, as soon as he meets Hakar, he has “feelings” and, of course, falls instantly in love and lust with the pirate. It feels like the only reason to have Elin be so blatantly uninterested in sex with anyone was not for character development, but so that he could be a virgin for Hakar. There were other ways to go about this. After all, this is a fantasy world with a shape shifting dragon. The author could have gone in a myriad of ways and instead chose this one. I found it mildly offensive and it soured me a little on Elin.
Hakar himself is what he is and who he is, the dashing hero pirate who gets himself into the Palace as part of his plan. Not that he has much of a plan beyond that, and once he sees Elin he gets distracted for, oh, several days. He was good natured and seemed pleasant enough and he honestly cared for Elin, wanted to protect him and rescue him.
The relationship between the two leads felt rather predictable, as did the plot. The world building hinted at potential and the Dragon was an interesting antagonist, but with everything rushing along so quickly and neatly to the end it all felt more than a little perfunctory. Shallow characters, a missed opportunity in world building, and a cookie-cutter romance left me unenthused with this book.