In Arast, the weight of a coin could mean the difference between war and peace. And for a prince and his bodyguard, it could mean the difference between life and death. For the quiet and dutiful Prince Kadou, court politics is something managed by others who have more interest. His sister, the Sultan, has recently given birth and Kadou is happy to play the doting uncle and to stay out of the spotlight. But when an incident on a hunt leads to death and embarrassment for the Sultan, Kadou finds himself struggling to avoid exile and to manage his sister’s wrath.
As part of his punishment, Kadou is assigned a new bodyguard, a dutiful but distant man called Evemer. Initially, Evemer sees little to recommend his charge — after all, men are dead because of Kadou’s actions. Then Evemer begins to see another side to Kadou, who suffers in silence from crippling anxiety and bears the awful weight of his every decision. As Evemer and Kadou navigate their new circumstances, they must also unravel a mystery involving counterfeit coins and a court betrayal. Before it is done, two men will risk everything to save the country they love and to save one another.
A Taste of Gold and Iron was a beautiful read with a pair of engaging main characters and strong world building that held my interest from beginning to end.
It’s rare to find a book where both protagonists read as truly balanced. One seems to always have more weight than the other, but with A Taste of Gold and Iron, Kadou and Evemer feel vibrant, believable, and equal in both their strengths and weakness. Kadou’s self loathing and his struggle with anxiety are rendered with such realism it was easy as a reader to empathize with and champion him. Just as compelling was Evemer’s sense of duty and loyalty, which evolve from something stiff and formal to a very real devotion and love for Kadou. These characters work well together and they’re the primary reason the book works and works on multiple levels. There are strong secondary characters as well, and one in particular assists in creating an engaging court life that builds out the world of A Taste of Gold and Iron until it reads as lusciously and vibrantly chaotic.
The only downside to the book is a slightly uneven plot. The basic storyline makes sense and works, but the reasons behind the whole counterfeiting ring and how the reveal plays are out are wobbly. It just reads as a stretch that an entire conspiracy was roiling below the surface given the structure of the Court and the extent of its reach. It didn’t overly detract from my reading. Rather, I just found myself questioning some of the plot points and whether or not they were actually supported.
I throughly enjoyed A Taste of Gold and Iron. The characters strong and well rounded. The romance that develops is a slow burning one that makes sense in the context of the wider action. The plot doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny, but it isn’t so off the wall as to be distracting either. Any fan of fantasies with solid world building and engaging characters will likely enjoy this one.