The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.
Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.
To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.
My thoughts: it took me a while to understand how the world in this book works, and how people relate to each other as the court is very formal and full of rules about who can do or say what to whom. But once I got my head around all of the traditions and relationships, it all flowed very nicely.
The Prince, Kadou, wants to cement his bond with his sister – the Queen, and his new baby niece, who he’s very fond of, and by taking on a complex investigation into counterfeit coins, the Shipbuilder’s Guild and some of the servants closest to the royal family. There’s a conspiracy here and he must get to the heart of it before anyone he cares for is placed in danger.
I liked the growing connection between Kadou and his bodyguard Evemer, the complex layers of servitude and courtly manners making it hard for them to even say exactly what they mean at times. But as they grow closer, it takes on more complexity as Kadou’s former guard is still around and still trying to foster a relationship with Kadou that he doesn’t want. I really liked Eozena – the guard captain and also the only person allowed to tell the Queen and Prince what to do. She was very funny at times, bossing Kadou about in her affectionate, almost parental way.
Kadou was at first quite hard to read, he’s shy and quite reserved, keeping things to himself and struggling to form friendships and connections. Kept separate from most people because of his status, he struggles to bond but with Evemer, he opens up. It’s rather sweet.
The world building was fascinating and complex, lots of layers and etiquette involved. The story was clever, with the conspiracy and counterfeiting, something you might expect royalty to have nothing to do with, cutting right to the heart and Kadou having to become a detective to solve it with Eozena and Evemer to help him.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.