Title: Lord of the White Hell Book One
Series: Lord of the White Hell #1, The Cadeleonian Series Volume #1
Author: Ginn Hale
Genre: Gay Fantasy
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.
But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.
However, Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram’s as well.
THIS WAS a fantastically built novel with fantastic characters in a fantastically fantastic setting. Kiram Kir-Zaki is the first Haldiim to attend the Segrada Academy in Cadeleon, but instead of being able to focus on his inventions, which was his sole reason for enrolling into the Academy, he is thrust into a backwards feudalistic society where homosexuality is seen as a sin, superstition and religion dictate law, and the corruption of power leads to the murder of children and worse. (Seriously. It gets pretty evil.) Kiram’s going to need every ally he can possibly get, but unfortunately he gets stuck with Duke Javier Tornseal as a roommate, who is equally–possibly more–shunned.
In possession of the White Hell, Javier is dangerous company, especially when it becomes clear unknown players in the upper echelons seek to destroy his entire line and all those who are connected to him. Kiram merely wanted to pursue his dream of being a renowned machinist, but now he finds himself fighting for his very life.
Let me say, as others have said, this book shouldn’t have been divided. That being said, let me also say I understand why it was. Many readers would hesitate at purchasing a ten-dollar ebook, but taking a loss on this particular work wouldn’t fair to the author or the publisher, especially when it’s so bloody fantastic. So, if you pick up book one please be aware you will probably be purchasing book two right after you finish it. As I did. Such is life.
There are many strong elements in this story. Of course Hale is a master of worldbuilding. If you haven’t read her work before you are in for a delightful treat. In this tale she uses a blend of Middle Eastern and Spanish influence, and every page is ripe with sensory detail. I was tempted to take notes but was so completely ensorcelled I kept forgetting.
Our two main characters are fun opposites: ungainly and introverted Kiram and cock-sure Javier. Immediately I wanted them to live a happily ever after. Javier is my favorite sort: the reluctant hero covering his self-esteem issues with arrogance and devilish charm. As a couple, Javier and Kiram demonstrate their budding love in scenes that were perhaps a bit sexier than other works of Hale. I felt those scenes added a nice touch without being effusive.
Speaking of sexy times, I did not like the brothel scene. The trope of bringing a gay boy into a brothel becomes tiring. Also, the typical misunderstanding over an ill-perceived betrayal of trust to create a random rift between characters was just that: typical. What did work with this scene was the brief analysis of a side character at the brothel. That character experienced attraction to men and women, but was clearly there to be with Javier in some form of a romantic fashion. Kiram thought the entire display was profoundly sad and I’d have to agree with him. I’m curious what will happen between him and our main characters in book two.
As I am considering this an incomplete work, I feel uncomfortable offering an opinion on the major premises of the story, but despite being aghast at the cliffhanger I still rated this work very highly because it was that good. The simple solution is to buy both books at the same time.
This would be a great work for people who love MM Romance but are ready for something a bit closer to gay fiction, and of course it would be wonderful for all speculative fiction lovers. Enjoy!
Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)
Ben Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys running, whisk(e)y, the mythical gluten-free donut, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.