Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Silk and Steel (Silk and Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*

Publish Date: January 18th, 2019

Number of Pages: 380 Pages

Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing

Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Warning & Reader Advisory:

Silk & Steel is not a “romance”.

This series is a DARK FANTASY intended for mature readers. While Silk & Steel is a love story, it is not for everyone. It is not categorized on Amazon, and not sold as m/m romance. It DOES feature a strong m/m LOVE STORY that develops over three books.
Silk & Steel features a gay dragon shifter, a bisexual elf, and adult themes. There is triggering content that some readers may find distressing, including implied incest, abuse, violence, dubious consent, and on-page sex. None of these instances are gratuitous. There is heterosexual sex and gay sex. The intense and star-crossed relationship between the two male leads develops over three books.

…When a blurb has this included within describing what the story is about, it really raises your eyebrows at what you may or may not be getting into! Now, the question for you is this: are you someone who immediately turns away from something like this, or does it pique your interest even further? Based off the fact that this is another one of my reviews, I bet you can guess what my answer was.

For anyone who’s looking for a dark fantasy to read, I would definitely say to take this warning extremely seriously, because while I was only more curious about this book, I can recognize that the content within this story can be extremely triggering for more sensitive readers, and this story is NOT for everyone! Yes, there is a M/M love story storyline that is what initially drew me in, but it’s a small aspect that intertwines with a lot of emotional torment, rape, assault, torture, and even implied incest that’s a lot of heavy material to take in all within one book! Seriously, this book goes further with it than even HBO’s Game of Thrones or even Spartacus from STARZ.

Besides all that carnality and absolutely vicious material, what really surprised me was an actually epic war/battling kingdoms style plot that developed. Don’t ask me to name any of the kingdoms back to you, but basically it’s a Fantasy world that Elves, Humans, and Dragon-Shifters. The Elves and Humans have been taken over and oppressed by the Draconic empire, but there are small groups of rebels from both races that are gathering supplies in order to make a stand against the dragons.

Besides sex & violence, the themes of trauma, acceptance & belonging, and even forbidden love make for an actually gripping and action packed tale between two unlikely enemies-turned-lovers: an Elf assassin named Eroan, and a lonely Dragon Prince named Lysander.

Eroan is courageous, stubborn, noble, natural born leader for his tribe. He’s a warrior through-and-through, but his troupe of assassins get captured by the dragons and he becomes the only survivor, and thus becomes a prisoner, which is where he meets Lysander, the younger Dragon Prince.

Lysander is a character your heart will break for because of all the pain he’s had to deal with in his lifetime. His mother and brother have tried to kill him several times because they consider him “broken” for his sexuality, and think he’s weak because he’s not a heartless murderer like they are. Luckily, they’ve been unsuccessful and Lysander has become the greatest warrior under his mother’s rule. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them from still believing he’s a useless waste of space. He’s been an outcast and the runt of the litter for all he’s known, but lately he’s been absolutely sick of it, and there’s a fire threatening to explode before you know it, no pun intended.

I would agree with the author when she says it’s not a romance title. There’s attraction and sexual acts that happen, but there’s so much pain, suffering, and violence occurring all around that romance feels like too soft of a word to describe it. The love story that’s developing between those two main characters grows in an intriguing way in the sense that they feel a kindred connection to each other that grows to a reluctant mutual respect, and of course, pure lust that may or may not being blooming into deeper feelings of love. There’s still some unsettling instances of rape and death surrounding it all, so it’s not rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters, far from it.

The world-building was so-so with not much description in the cities/kingdoms and major landmarks, but luckily there wasn’t much mentioned in that regard to kind of save it. There’s some history with the three types of people that’s revealed in a way that’s not info-dumped. I was majorly confused by the point when one character runs into a certain group, it happens around the 60-75% of the book; it felt so randomly placed into the story and was a strange wave within the pacing, but hopefully it gets explained better in the next book. There’s a surprising amount of sub-categories within even just the Dragon empire, and it features different species that make appearances in the story. There’s major dissent that is evident within both the Dragons and even the Elves, which is surprising since you usually figure Elves are all entirely on the same page.

There are plenty of questions that popped up while reading, but I have to remember this is only the first book in a series, so hopefully that means so much more gets revealed as I keep reading on!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The Dragon Queen’s reign is one of darkness and death. Humans have vanished under the rubble of their world and if the queen has her way, elves will be next.

Eroan, one of the last elven assassins, lives for one purpose: kill the queen.

He would have succeeded if not for her last line of defense: Prince Lysander. Now, captured and forced into the queen’s harem, Eroan sees another opportunity. Why kill just the queen when he can kill them all? It would be simple, if not for the troubled and alluring prince. A warrior, a killer, and something else…, something Eroan finds himself inexplicably drawn to.

Trapped in a life he despises, Lysander knows his time is running out.

If the queen doesn’t kill him for his failures, her enemies will. There’s nothing left to live for, until an elf assassin almost kills him. A stubborn, prideful, fool of an elf who doesn’t know when to quit. An elf who sparks a violent, forbidden desire in Lysander.

If Lysander can’t save himself, maybe he can save the elf and maybe, just maybe… one stubborn elf will be enough to bring down the queen before she kills them all.

Duty demands they fight for their people. Love has other plans...

What I Liked:

  1. The Lust/Love between Lysander and Eroan! It’s definitely not a romance, per say, but the attraction that builds between these two characters is certainly a noteworthy aspect of this story. It’s pretty erotic in some areas, heartbreaking in others, but one scene in particular stood out a lot to me. Basically, to the other characters, Eroan is about to be assaulted and raped by Lysander, who is not happy about it. He actually has feelings for the captured Elf, and being forced upon the Queen’s captive is the last thing he wants. He leans in and whispers an apology only Eroan can hear, but surprise…..Eroan whispers back “Don’t be.” It may be incredibly creepy or perverted of me, but I found that kind of hot! I mean, at least it was consensual!
  2. Dragon-Shifters! I’d never read a book with these types of characters. I absolutely love any stories with dragons/wyverns/dragon-riders/etc. so to have humans who can change into the flying, fire-breathing beasts was something new for me that I really enjoyed!
  3. MVP Character: Lysander! By far my favorite character so far, my heart goes out for him and all that he experiences just in this first book. Anyone else would’ve given up with all that he’s been through, but still he rises above it all and becomes a better person because of it. He’s never felt like he’s belonged, and has been called broken and useless by his own family, who by the way, has tried to kill him on several occasions as a quick reminder! Seriously hoping the author throws him a couples bones this next book because Lysander deserves some happiness in my opinion!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Human World…What a random introduction into this story, and it wasn’t really explained as to how it is the way that it is. I know that justification doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without more context, but I don’t want to spoil it for readers. All I will say is it happens at about the 60-75% mark in the story.
  2. Homophobia…Poor Lysander deals with it from his mother and even older brother amongst the Dragons. Luckily, they’re the only people that really show any of it, everyone literally could care less about that sort of thing, but anyone who’s in the queer community who’s had a hard home life like that growing up knows how hard and traumatizing that can be!

Conclusion:

Overall, I was actually really surprised at how much I liked this title! Besides all the sex, violence, and torture, the plot actually got pretty intense in the sense of it feeling very similar to an epic battle happening in a show like Game of Thrones! There are some dark occurrences with rape and assault and torture, but if you’re someone who watched GoT in its entirety, it’s not necessarily anything you haven’t seen before, this story is just higher up on the gay male/male romance factor. With that said, it’s not like anyone can really say they enjoyed those moments, but it’s understandable that some readers would rather avoid that triggering content. It’s not for everyone, so definitely take the author’s warning within the blurb!

I’d recommend this title to anyone who likes M/M romance, and if you really liked The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat; I think they have a very similar vibe in the first book introducing a very ominous vibe with a lot of violence and sex involved to shock readers but then turns into an epic tale to keep your attention!

This book was one that had me up extremely late—like 3 or 4 in the morning—and has a dramatic cliffhanger of an ending, so much that I groaned into my pillow and immediately purchased a copy of the next book in this series to get on that ASAP! the forbidden/star crossed lovers aspect of the story with the two male main characters is tearing me apart because the author constantly throws things in their way to keep each other just out of reach, and ugh………….it’s torture for me too!

I do have some other titles I need to read first because I have a reader friend/coworker named Erika who I make deals with to have us read books that we pick for each other. If she wants me to read a certain book, I make sure she knows I have a title for her too so we can get what we both want out of it and to be able to talk about yet ANOTHER book we’ve both read. If you don’t have a reading buddy like that, I highly recommend it because one of the worst things a reader can suffer from is being absolutely obsessed with a book/series but having no one to talk about it with in person!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Writing/Articles

Daily Writing Challenge #5

Hello Readers! Here is my next daily writing challenge, and my friend and I switched it up this time around when she selected a song for our prompt! It’s a catchy, bouncy, and whimsical song performed by Celtic Woman, and I even embedded a Youtube video for anyone to listen!

I was inspired when I did some research and read the lyrics about one urging their lover to join them on a quest, and was told in Tolkien’s Elven language. It inspired me to think about two traveling Elves, and went on from there. Enjoy below!

~~~

Two cloaked travelers entered through the thick wooden doors of a pub near the river in town as soon as the sun had completely set. It was a calm summer night, but there was an air of tension between the two figures as they went straight towards the bar. 

The heavy-set barkeep looked them both up and down while he wiped down a glass mug, his expression revealing nothing. “What’ll it be, boys?”

Dior, the younger of the two, peered over towards his companion. “I don’t think we need anything. Do we, sir?”

“Actually, we’ll take two ales, and we’ll both take the special if there is one tonight, kind sir,” Raegel replied with a small smile. He placed a few coins down, probably more than what his order was worth, but the barkeep nodded in confirmation before he turned away, a little pep in his step. 

Raegel decided to lower his hood and even on the dim lighting, his silver-white hair gleamed like starlight as it fell almost halfway down his back, and he swiped a few strands behind his elongated ear. Dior followed suit, and his eyes darted around their entire setting, not missing a single face or possible danger. 

“Where did your informant say to meet again?” Dior whispered to Raegel. 

The older Elf sensed an uneasiness about his companion, which was uncommon for their kind. An elf always exuded calm confidence in any situation. Dior was almost adolescent when compared to him; his aqua eyes were filled with naive wonder and his golden-amber hair was only half his own length. He knew he was beginning to advance in his years, but Raegel knew he still had a lot to teach his apprentice currently sitting next to him up by the bar. But first, their mission. 

“They made sure to keep it as brief as possible,” Raegel answered. He gestured for Dior to turn in his seat so they faced opposite directions. “They couldn’t risk any information being revealed, which based off the information they could share with us tonight, only proves how necessary it is to take these precautions.”

Dior frowned. “So we have absolutely no idea what they’ll look like?” 

“Remain calm, the letter they sent informed me they’ll make a signal when they make themselves known,” Raegel calmly assured Dior, noticing the returning barkeep with his hands full. “In the meantime, breathe and enjoy yourself. there’s no need to be impatient.” 

“Here ye go boys, just what ye ordered,” the barkeep set two bowls of a warm soup in front of them, then placed the full mugs of ale down next, not spilling a drop. “Pleasure to serve, it’s not every day we see yer kind around these parts.”

“Suppose that means business is usually in abundance,” Raegel commented.

The barkeep chuckled. “Ye could say that. Usually elves only visit Shirewood on serious business, I always forget yer kind need to eat too.”

Raegel made it a point to sip his bowl of soup. Not too bad, but he’s had better. “Not as often as most, but we need sustenance just like any living creature.”

Dior turned around on his stool. “Luckily, we are just passing through, so there’s nothing to cause much concern..” 

“Right, right, well happy to have ye here tonight.” the barkeep nodded. “Let me know if ye need anything.” 

The two elves both politely thanked him before he walked down the bar to serve other patrons, no doubt to wager on why the two of them were in their small riverside town in the first place. It must be an uneventful area for the two of them to receive this much attention. 

Raegel took another sip of his soup before he turned back to Dior. “I quite liked the man, I wouldn’t have minded continuing our exchange with him, like how he referred to me as ‘boy’ even though I’m most likely three-hundred his senior.”

Dior didn’t even bother eating his meal. “If he’s not our informant, then why waste our breath?”

“Because our presence already draws much attention, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.” Raegel paused as Dior once again eyed the room and felt everyone’s stares while none of the conversations ended. “Why draw more attention to ourselves? It looks quite suspicious if two elves come into a bar, and don’t even bother to purchase a meal or refreshment, don’t you think?”

Catching the subtle dig, Dior finally lifted his spoon to his mouth. “I see your point.”

Raegel chuckled, and could sense the newfound relief wash across the room after. “There’s no need to rush these meetings. I know you have many years left, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to enjoy these small moments from time to time.”

Dior took a large gulp of his ale, his shoulders dropping just an inch. “Yes sir, I just detest remaining in the dark on any of the information we need. You know how important this information is, and how much our Queen requires this information.” 

“Our informant should have arrived already,” Raegel assured Dior. “Now, we simply wait for a signal.”

A curvaceous woman stepped up onto a small stage towards the back, and a small troupe of musicians began to strum their instruments. The woman immediately joined in and sang a song about two lovers; one urging the other to join them on a journey, of the ancient sun, and to seize the day. It was a campfire song that Raegel remembered from his younger days, before he became a soldier, and he’d lost his first love. He was impressed at the perfect elven pronunciation the human woman sang, so he turned his head to give her his full attention. 

On stage, she smiled as she continued on, and even got most of the other patrons to gather around and joyously dance along; she even joined after a few other patrons gestured for her. Her smile was infectious, and her hair shimmered as it caught the light of a nearby oil lamp. 

Still seated, Raegel watched over the whole scene with a mix of nostalgic joy and melancholy. He took a deep breath at the memories the song brought back to him. All the while, Dior finished his meal, then his eyes returned to scanning the pub as it began to fill up as the night grew late.

When the woman’s eyes met his own, Raegel knew that instant that he’d found their informant. 

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell