Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

~~~

I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I lived this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT a she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add so much to the story as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely gotten some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent, she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

~~~

Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Kingdom of the Wicked series by Kerri Maniscalco

Image courtesy of Bookstagram account: @xenatine

Hello readers!

I’m back with another Fancast article, this time it’s a demonic, witchy series that has become a favorite of mine in 2021 as I started reading it, “Kingdom of the Wicked” is a spooky delight with enemies-to-lovers and (surprisingly) amazing food prep descriptions that may add on to my quarantine 45!

The story revolves around Emilia, whose family is full of witches who must keep it a secret from witch hunters, they live among the mortals of their island town. Her twin sister, Vittoria, is mysteriously & brutally murdered, and Emilia goes looking for answers, and reluctantly joins forces with one of her mortal enemies: a demon Prince from hell. They rule the kingdom of the wicked, and Prince Wrath may be incredibly easy on the eyes, but never before has a witch ever formed an alliance with demon royalty, but as they dig deeper into this murder mystery, they discover there are much more malicious forces at work, and dark prophecies may soon come to light…

I am making this Fancast/Dreamcast as I’ve recently finished the second book that’s released – Kingdom of the Cursed – as I’m typing this. I’m so relieved that Kerri Maniscalco decided to go in more new adult direction with this series; Wrath was WAYYYYYYYYY too hot to stay in YA!

Anyways, not everyone has been cast yet, but not to worry! I plan to add characters as I find a face to the name, so refer back to this post as books release and it’ll be updated as quickly as possible!

~~~

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

~~~

Here’s My Official Fancast/Dreamcast:

~~~

Emilia/Vittoria di Carlo: Sophia Miacova

She isn’t an actress, but this model definitely has the look I imagine these magical twins having! She’s got the Latin looks, even if I’m not entirely sure if she ethnically matches up to the characters.

Nonna Maria: Stevie Nicks

Again, I’m not getting an A+ on authenticity because Stevie Nicks doesn’t have any Italian descent in her blood, but there’s no doubt that she has a witchy, haunting vibe to her…hell, she played a witch in “American Horror Story” when she’s made surprise appearances!

Antonio Vincenzu Bernardo: Rafael Silva

I love Rafael in Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” and he has such boyish good looks that I imagined Antonio having! Who wouldn’t have a crush on a face like that if they grew up with him like Emilia?

Prince Wrath: Clayton Brannon

Okay, but Prince Wrath was easily the hardest to cast because this is going to sound shallow, but who could possibly be good looking enough to play this sexy demon Prince from Hell?!?! Luckily, I remembered I follow this model on Instagram and I do believe he is an excellent choice even if he’s not an actor, he’s who I picture as Wrath!

Claudia: Jeanine Mason

I first saw this actress in a season of “Grey’s Anatomy” and she’s also in the show of “Roswell, New Mexico” but also who I picked to be Emilia’s cousin in these books.

Prince Envy: Mario Zabal

Again, apparently demon princes from Hell are sexy AF, because here’s another model who matches up to this Prince of the green sin…he’s got sharp features that I think really encapsulate the prince’s ethereal beauty!

Prince Greed: Daniel Gillies

So if you’ve seen my other Fancastings, you know I love “The Vampire Diaries” and for some reason, “Elijah” here came to mind when it came to the demon Prince who ran an underground speak-easy/casino to lure the weak minded into losing everything…

Prince Lust: Clint Mauro

Clint Mauro is someone who I consider to be one of the sexiest men in existence, so why not have him play the Prince of Lust! I even found a picture of him shirtless on a beach because a beach is where we first met him! You’re welcome!

Alexei: Jarred Blakiston

So this actor is obviously wearing a wig, but seeing him in full costume in the Netflix show “The New Legends of Monkey,” he looks like an evil elven Prince, or in this case, a certain vampire who does the bidding of Prince Envy!

Anir: Charles Michael Davis

I was struggling to find someone who wasn’t Ne-Yo or Tyson Beckford in who has both an African and Asian background since that’s how the character is described, but I found out that Charles is part Filipino, so it fits! Another TVD favorite who played Marcel!

Fauna: ???

I’m struggling to find someone who looks like what I imagined this character looking like….stay tuned!

Prince Gluttony: Darren Criss, or Adam Brody

This Prince is not a larger sized guy like you might think, in fact even Emilia describes him as not appearing how she expected either. He’s described as being shorter with brownish-maybe dark red hair and hazel eyes, so I pictured either of these actors playing the Prince of not eating too much, but simply enjoying ALL of life’s pleasures in excess!

Prince Pride: Adam Demos

Prince Pride finally makes an appearance in KOTC, and as soon as we figured out what he actually looks like, I pictured this hot Aussie actor to play him and continue to heat up the screen you’re viewing this post on! If he looks familiar, it’s because he’s on the hit Netflix show “Sex/Life.”

Celestia: Kristin Bauer van Straten

She played the dark queen Maleficent in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and also just so happens to play this character who works as a medicine woman down in hell who’s way more than meets the eye…

~~~

Remember: this Fancast/Dreamcast will be updated as more books release for this series, and as I figure out more characters, so come back over time to see any new additions.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Ace of Spades: by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Publish Date: June 1st, 2021
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre(s): YA Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

I hate how they have the power to kill my future, kill me. They treat my Black skin like a gun or a grenade or a knife that is dangerous and lethal, when really it’s them. The guys at the top powering everything.

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

~~~

Ace of Spades is a whirlwind of a story once you really get into the thick of things…it’s about two black students who are being targeted by an anonymous online presence who goes by the name “Aces” at a prestigious private school. They have no idea why this faceless enemy is targeting them specifically, but what they do know is that they know all their dirty secrets and aren’t afraid to put it all out there for the world to see, thus putting their futures in grave danger…

This book has gotten a lot of praise and exposure on bookstagram and all over social media ever since it came out over the summer of 2021, and I’ll admit that the comparison of “Get Out” meets “Gossip Girl” really had me interested to see what the hype is all about. Plus, I’m a strong advocator for how representation matters and wanting to hear different voices in books and expanding my perspective of other people’s lives that are different than my own. I am a white CIS male, and while I know I will never fully understand the struggles of being black in America, especially a black queer male, but I can honestly say I felt like this book gave me a good idea! The social issues that are explored in this story are a definite highlight that a lot of us can definitely relate to in some way, shape, or form and the characters feel much more fleshed out and dynamic as more is revealed to their character and personal sense of morality.

While the initial set up and beginning of the book were good enough to draw you in, I felt the midpoint really dropped the ball and really slowed down for me…I mean, I really struggled to stay interested through a good chunk of it and even considered putting this book on my DNF stack on several occasions. Heck, I even tried bribing some of my coworkers at the bookstore to read it for me and just spoil it all for me! Not exactly a good thing for any book, lesbehonest…however, my curiosity to find out who was behind it all was what kept me going to be able to finish the story. It obviously won out in the end, and I can’t say it disappointed me either!

While the midpoint was slow, once I got to page 200 I think, that was when the mystery really began to get juicier and it was a much faster and engaging book. The whole situation begins to be revealed as something much bigger and sinister than anyone could imagine, and even I found myself with freakin’ chills running up my arms when certain things happen to the characters, like with certain students or even faculty members. I found the ending to be very satisfactory even if it also felt a little rushed, but I also think that’s okay because by then the authors message and lesson for the reader is loud and clear about issues like systematic racism, classism, and even the struggles of being a POC LGBT+ youth in America today.

Like I said, when you get further into the book where the plot becomes more significant and characterization moves to the passenger seat; sex, lies, murder, secrets, white supremacy, and the ongoing battle of taking down racism make this quite a wicked ride of a story that somehow even has some heartwarming softer moments of both family, friendship, and love that make this even a more well rounded story!

~~~

All you need to know is… I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do.”

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades’

What I Liked:

  1. The Representation! One reason I picked this book up was because it’s not a bad thing to broaden your horizons and try to listen to different voices in literature. We all know the argument that representation matters, and I can say this book provides someone like me a great visual on what it’s like to be black and dealing with racism, and even to be black and queer and dealing with the system being against you just because of the color of your skin. It’s not the type of story I usually go for, and for that is why I wanted to try something new.
  2. The Character Development! Chiamaka and Devon both have such amazing character development as the story progresses and they deal with other issues besides a cyber bully. I especially liked Chiamaka’s chapters and her as a character in general because she,at start off as the typical queen b, Blair Waldorf HBIC, but she becomes so much more as you get closer to her.
  3. The Social Commentary/Theme! It’s been said already in this review, but I thought the author showed the struggles of dealing with racism, classism, and even homophobia all incredibly well, and it certainly helped someone who’s not facing the same struggles as they face to better understand it and hopefully learn from it as we move forward!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Extremely Slow Midpoint…I’m sorry, but that midpoint almost killed the book for me! I was just so bored, and I kept putting this book down for others because I just couldn’t get myself to read it most days. I almost put it in my DNF stack, but I hate doing that and really did want to find out who was behind it all.

Conclusion:

Overall, Ace of Spades was crazy and twisted YA thriller that also has an incredibly interesting take on systematic racism, white supremacy, and plenty of other social issues that are so incredibly important, ESPECIALLY with all that has happened in the last year and a half pertaining to those specific issues and what plenty of POC citizens still deal with today.

I will never fully know the struggle of being black in America, that is a privilege that I am aware of, but I wanted to read this as a way to help spread the message of how important it is for stories like this to be heard, and for writers of color who are willing to put this sort of material out there for us to read, to enjoy and hopefully also to learn and understand from their perspective. Those are their stories, and we should want to hear them!

I would’ve rated this book higher, but the slow midpoint is why I’m not giving it a higher rating. None of the social importance is really revealed until later in the story, and I really did struggle and almost not bother to finish this book, but let’s also take into consideration that this is also the author’s debut novel, which that in itself makes it an impressive story too! I also usually don’t read this type 0f story, so I’m sure there are plenty of others who will especially enjoy this one!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Iron and Fire (Silk and Steel #2): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: April 19th, 2019
Number of Pages: 411 Pages
Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT, Erotica

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Silk & Steel – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Because…’ he said, ‘in the one place I expected to die, you gave me a reason to live.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Alliances are forged and broken, friendships shattered, and despite the odds stacked against them, two hearts collide in this explosive sequel to Silk & Steel.

From his mother’s cage to a human one, but Lysander’s captors are the least of his concerns. Rumors of a monstrous bronze dragon ripple through human camps, a dragon tearing great holes in the world as though searching for something… or someone.

It’s just a matter of time before the bronze chief, Dokul, finds Lysander and makes good on his promises. And should he find him, Lysander knows Dokul will not be merciful.

Amidst the greatest of elven victories, Eroan failed. Failed his people, failed himself, and failed the dragon who saved him. But he will not falter. The dragonkin are in disarray, there will never be a greater opportunity to strike. Eroan Ilanea will not fail his people again.

But when rumors of the dragon prince’s survival reach him, he must choose: Fight for his people or fight for the prince who nobody thought to save?

***

***Contains adult themes, triggering content, a bisexual elf, and a gay dragon shifter.***

~~~

Oh boy!

This book got even better than the first book; no second book syndrome in sight!

The story continues right after how the previous book ended, and what heartache we must face as Lysander and Eroan were tragically separated and Eroan later believes he sent the dragon shifter to his death with the humans. But really, the Dragon lord, Dokul, knows he’s still alive and is after him still.

Again, I’m shocked how much I enjoy this story because it’s a gay romance Game of Thrones—Gay of Thrones?—and the sexual tension and overall development between them and their relationship is done so spectacularly well, It was by far the biggest driving force that kept my eyes glued to the page and seeing what possibly happened next. I loved it whenever they reunited and was sad whenever they got separated again and again.

The worldbuilding more or less stayed the same, not much really changed in that regard, but the world still remained so brutalistic and violent and harsh as everyone is doing whatever is necessary to come out on top of this game of thrones. We have Lysander’s brother Akiem popping up and causing destruction whenever he appears, Dokul and Mirann are also still like a dragon-shifter version of Cersei and Tywin Lannister, and Seraph is still Eroan’s best friend and kind of being like an elven Arya in her way too.

Lysander continues to be the MVP of these books, but also the one who unfortunately gets the most abuse out of the characters…like, holy moly does he really get put through the wringer, and my heart aches for him because deep down he really just wants to find a place to belong and not feel like a waste of space. He feels that with Eroan and has such a deep connection with him, but of course the forbidden aspect of their romance makes that plenty complicated too. BUT they really fight for their relationship and did what they can, plus there was a ton more steam and spice between them this time too!

~~~

What is this thing between us?

Eroan’s chin rubbed his head and when he spoke, his voice rumbled through Lysander. ‘It is everything.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension Between Lysander & Eroan! There was way more romance with these two in this second book, which made the overall storyline sooooooooooo much more interesting to me too! The tables have turned and this time it’s Eroan who’s rescuing Lysander and they’re hiding out together, keeping each other warm by staying super close…I’m just so glad this was a bigger focus now that the world has fully been introduced and there’s no need to further explain a bunch of other things, I’m ready for the smut! I’m ready for the romance! I’m ready for the fluff too, because both these tortured beings deserve some freakin’ happiness.
  2. Dragons! I said this in the last review too I’m pretty sure—I don’t feel like looking back to confirm—but I love that this is so dragon-centric! It’s dragon-shifters to be exact, but either way, they’re big scaly flying lizards of death that can breathe fire! Honestly that’s enough for certain readers to want to read this
  3. How Dark and Brutal This Story Gets! The author isn’t afraid to get to the dark and dirty content with how descriptive the more violent scenes can get. There’s also a lot of rape, which is pretty triggering content, there’s also a sex scene that’s actually kind of manipulative and was meant as a tactic to get one character to hate the other, so I know the previous review said this, but this book continues with the similar trigger warnings so there’s my PSA on the subject! It was also pretty unpredictable in a few parts that did somewhat surprise me! It was mainly battles and the big climax, but either way, I always appreciate when something raises my eyebrows and gets me to say “huh, I didn’t see that coming!”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Side Characters That I Can’t Remember… I don’t know if it was just me, because I’ve been weird with books lately and my attention span has been suffering as of late, but there were quite a few side characters in this book, and half of the time I was struggling to remember who was who. It was either I wasn’t paying attention as much as I should’ve been or I simply didn’t care because I was more wrapped up in the sexual tension between Eroan and Lysander, but I struggled with this aspect of this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, but mainly because there was a ton more romance this time around. The worldbuilding and history of the world is nothing too special, but if you’re looking for some dark fantasy/smutty M/M romance that’s pretty well written, this is a great option for you! (obviously, just start with the first book obviously)

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell