Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Liall now reigns as king of Rshan, a job fraught with complicated relationships amongst the nobles. Those relationships and the one Liall has with his own subjects are further strained by the Rshani people’s stalwart refusal to accept Liall’s lover, Scarlet. But Liall and Scarlet are absolutely dedicated to one another. There is nothing a royal advisor or disgruntled subject can do to cleave the lovers apart because Liall has declared Scarlet as his royal consort, has gifted him with title and lands, and has refused marriage to a woman whose very presence would quell much of the people’s misgivings about the new king. But one thing vexes Liall even more than the abject discrimination Scarlet faces: Liall hails from a long-lived race and is just now entering the prime of his life, whereas nineteen-year-old Scarlet will be lucky to see two more decades.

There is hope for the star crossed lovers. History speaks of a time long, long ago when Liall’s and Scarlet’s people were as one—and those people held immeasurable power. That power just might be the key to letting Scarlet and Liall grow old together. All Liall has to do is take Scarlet to the most sacred ground of all Rshan, a place where Scarlet’s kind are forbidden to go. This is not only a grave taboo in Rshan, but it will require Liall withholding the truth from Scarlet, if not outright lying and betraying his lover for the sake of getting Scarlet to the sacred place. To say nothing of the doubts Liall has that Scarlet will even survive the process. And all this unfolds as Liall realizes he can trust fewer and fewer of his inner circle to truly support him as king.

Challenge Month 2021The Temple Road is the fifth installment in Kirby Crow’s Scarlet and the While Wolf series. I first picked up this series years ago and remember fondly the way Scarlet and Liall met when Scarlet was just a wandering peddler and Liall was a cunning bandit, the way they went from enemies to lovers, the revelations that Liall was a king and Scarlet was a bit magical. I didn’t give up on the series, but there were only four books when I last looked and it felt like it would be a long time before (if ever) another was forthcoming. I was absolutely delighted to discover that Crow had written one more. Therefore, I thought this made a great candidate for my TBR Pile Week challenge this year.

To prepare for this, I thought about rereading the whole series, but the first three books have very detailed summaries that gave better shape to my fuzzy recollection of the books. However, neither the fourth nor fifth had such summaries, so I re-read book four then started this one. For fans of the series, I would suggest going back to the beginning if it has been a while. I was able to follow the intrigue fairly well and there are many characters who are “typecast” insofar as they are obviously bad- or good-guys. That said, political intrigue and betrayals are a big theme as well, so I think going back to the beginning will give readers the best experience. Plus, there’s the whole watching our heroes fall in love all over again.

A big part of the action in this story revolves around the Rshan and their treatment of Scarlet. The best the Rshani believe about Scarlet is that he is a plaything for the king, but with rare exception, most Rshani characters treat Scarlet either as a soulless non-human or a blackguard because of the magic he possess. I think this hits the nail on the head depressingly well given the social climate of America in recent years. There is a scene towards the end where Liall is trying to explain how one of his subject’s actions constitutes treason and the Rshani he is speaking to never really understands. Even after a whole book’s worth of watching Liall attempt various routes towards giving Scarlet agency and legitimacy in Rshan, it wasn’t until this scene that Liall gets a true inkling of the kind of prejudice Scarlet has faced. In other words, Liall realizes that no amount of good will or patience or explanation or drastic measures will turn the hearts and minds of Rshani to Scarlet’s favor.

Since our two characters are already an established couple, the romance and especially the physical intimacy feel more alluded to than explicitly described. That said, there are plenty of scenes that reinforce their physical connection (usually in a fade-to-black style) or build on how well they read one another/play off each other’s personalities. Whether they are together or they have been separated, it feels like Liall’s and Scarlet’s first thoughts are for the well-being of their lover. Usually, I liked how these affirmations played out, often including comments about how they love each other despite being a king/non-Rshani, not because of it. That said, this “I’ll die without you” level of devotion sometimes feels a bit repetitive or perhaps obsessive is a better descriptor. What helped me not immediately feel like I was listening to a broken record was remembering just how many hardships these two have overcome together. In other words, I felt like the richness of their backstory (across the whole series) justifies the intensity of their feelings.

As far as pacing goes, there is a lot of a particular kind of action in the story. Specifically, Liall is often busy spending his days on kingly duties, largely surrounding the upcoming war he must wage against a ruthless group of outlaws (which includes defending Scarlet to all and sundry) and Scarlet is left to defend his wish to stay at Liall’s side and how that does not make him a gold-digger. What keeps this fresh for me is that Scarlet has to endure the same old prejudice from new groups of Rshani as he, Liall, and the royal army journeys out to meet their opponents. And for Liall, though he’s often with the same small set of advisors, his (and the reader’s) doubts grow as to who is truly loyal to Liall and who will act behind the king’s back “for the good of the kingdom.”

One of the few criticisms I have is a bit unfortunate. It was established early in this book that Liall is deathly afraid of living a long life without Scarlet; it’s his “selfish” desire to find a way to extend Scarlet’s life that drives a lot of what Liall is doing in this book. But Liall often comments to himself how Scarlet will feel betrayed by Liall’s actions. It wasn’t clear if this meant that Liall was worried Scarlet would feel betrayed at Liall unilaterally deciding Scarlet needed to live longer, or if Liall was worried Scarlet would feel betrayed at Liall for holding one of Scarlet’s few Rshani friends accountable (i.e. Liall seriously entertains executing this friend for what Liall perceived as a failure to protect Scarlet from some danger or other). Maybe it was both? Liall’s guilt feels like a huge gamble, something he is constantly worried about, and I was frustrated that I wasn’t sure what, exactly, he was feeling so guilty about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. In addition to reinforcing our established couple, the characters grow individually. Liall warms up to his role as king, even if only as a means to help secure a longer lifespan for Scarlet. Meanwhile, Scarlet’s small magical ability starts to grow exponentially, which is very much a double edged sword since the Rshani already loathe/fear him. Even better is that some magical effects start to present in Liall; I loved the idea that these two get to be special not just for their undying love, but literally because they’re magically connected to each other and some mysterious, ancient power. Aside from some opacity regarding just what is driving Liall’s growing guilt and some minor editorial things, I think anyone who’s a fan of the series will enjoy this installment. (Final note: Please be aware that although Amazon indicates this is book 5 in a 5 book series, the events in this book do not wrap up the major issues plaguing Liall and Scarlet. Also, there is explicitly mention of a 6th book at the conclusion of this book.)

This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two fabulous audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio (you can see the details on the bundles in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand {rize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on TBR Pile Week here