I don’t tend to review many backlist books, but I plan to review more. So what better to start with than with the first book I read for FaRoFeb? This was a book that I was intrigued by but wasn’t sure I’d like. I’d heard it doesn’t go how you’d expect, and it was available on Kindle Unlimited, so I decided to give it a chance.
I’m actually glad I did.
The book follows Auren, a young woman pulled from the streets by King Midas. As his favoured, his touch turned her body to gold, but she’s still able to live. Considered Midas’ most treasured, Auren is caged within his palace and is only invited out when he wants to show her off. Auren may have loved him for years, but cracks in her trust are beginning to show.
Major trigger/content warnings for sexual assault and violence. These are very prevalent in the book. If you’re not comfortable reading about them, this isn’t the book for you.
I’m going to start this review by talking a little about those content warnings. This is a very dark adult book. You’re warned of that in the summary, so I didn’t go in blind. But what I didn’t expect was how this would make me feel. I hated Midas, and I hated many of the guy characters. They have so much power over these men and women, and they’re just using it to hurt them. But at the same time, seeing these concubines, or ‘saddles’ as they’re called, using those skills to keep themselves alive and getting what they want…That was kind of fascinating. I’d love to read more about them in a more settled way to see how they can use this to their advantage, and I can’t help but wonder if many of these people chose to take on this role. If so, good for them. They still don’t deserve the violence and rape, obviously, that’s pretty horrific. But it’s good to see that sex work can be good for those who do it, provided they have some power and get treated right.
Obviously, this book made me very sad and angry at times. This definitely isn’t a book to read if you’re feeling fragile. There’s a lot of pain, emotional and physical, so just be aware.
Aside from the sexual violence, there isn’t actually much smut. Auren has sex once, and it’s not described. There’s a lot of talk of sex and things happening in the background. That’s basically how the book starts. But aside from the violence, there isn’t really anything all that graphic. I was actually kind of surprised, but I’m assuming that’ll change in later books. I’d personally prefer more willing smut over all the violent scenes…
Character-wise, I did really like Auren. In the beginning, she’s clearly struggling to cope with the way her life is being led. She’s sad and lonely and doing what she can to combat that. Even if that means trying to get guards to play drinking games with her and then waking up with a hangover. As she begins to lose her trust in Midas, you see her begin to change and not for the better until something else happens, and she realises that her life was actually pretty good. Even if she was still a prisoner. She has a kind heart, and I liked seeing that she wanted to befriend the guards and other saddles. I really appreciated both Sail, Digby and Rissa. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in the later books if I can. There are some pretty funny scenes connected to these friendships, and I really did enjoy that.
The world-building was pretty interesting. I didn’t know this book involved the fae until the word popped up. Usually, that’s something that would put me off, but Kennedy has made them pretty interesting. I’ve not seen much of her fae yet, so opinions may change, but for now, I don’t mind. I’m not mad, as they do seem like a pretty original variation. And I’m okay with that. I liked seeing the different magics that different kings had, and I’m hoping I’ll get to see more of that in later books. The magic system in this world does seem pretty fascinating, so that’s fun.
One thing I was slightly unsure about is Auren’s ribbons. She basically has these extensions on her back that she can control like tentacles, but they’re described as ribbons. It’s pretty weird. Once I got used to them, it was interesting to see how she used them. They’re definitely a useful tool but could also make things a lot more difficult for her. So I’m curious, but I’m hoping they don’t wind up used in smutty scenes as I’m not about tentacle porn… That’s a big nope from me.
Overall though, this was an enjoyable read. Hard to deal with emotionally in places, but otherwise very easy to read. I’m eager to carry on with this series soon, so hopefully, I can do that this year!
Author: Raven Kennedy
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Age Range: Adult