Boy, oh boy, was this one of my most anticipated books for the year. Seriously. I’ve been wanting to read Alexandra Rowland since I heard them speak on a world-building podcast, but I never quite got around to it. I kept an eye on their work, and when I saw A Taste of Gold and Iron, I knew it would be right up my street. This is a heavily political romantic fantasy novel akin to Winter’s Orbit, and it’s definitely worth reading. I received a proof thanks to Black Crow PR, something I’m still giddy over now, so thanks so much to the team there.
Prince Kadou is in trouble with his sister, the Queen. After causing an incident related to threats her lover made against him, Kadou has been pushed into the background. The only way he can earn his seat back in court is to solve the theft and counterfeiting scheme he was recently put in charge of. Joining him will be his new bodyguard, Evemer. But Evemer doesn’t like him, and things are difficult as Kadou tries to tackle both this operation and his mental health. The more time Kadou and Evemer spend together, the more they fall in love, and soon they would do anything to protect each other.
Bodyguard/Royalty romances are just so good. There’s something so romantic about the idea of someone sworn to protect you loving you so much that they’d do it anyway. It’s often sweet, and this book was definitely great for that reason. I really enjoyed Kadou and Evemer’s relationship and the growth it took both of them on. One of the things Kadou needs to work on in the novel is his mental health, something that isn’t mentioned in the official summary but is very important. There’s major anxiety rep in this book, so if reading about it triggers you, be careful when you read this book. Kadou is a mess at first, but it’s good to see him trying to cope with it in healthier ways as time passes.
Before I go into what I loved most about this book, I do need to pause and mention something that wasn’t so great. I was expecting this book to be a five-star read, but the length of the chapters really made it difficult for me to give it that. The chapters in this book are often 30+ pages long. If, like me, you’re someone who doesn’t like putting a book down mid-chapter? That’s a struggle. Even though I enjoyed the story throughout, I wasn’t getting just one more chapter vibes. Because I’d read one or two chapters and then have had enough as I had to focus for so long. I do feel that these chapters could have been split into shorter ones, and the book would have been better for it.
That aside, there were definitely aspects that I adored, and one of those is the side characters. There were scenes and chapters – chapter 13 was completely amazing – where I was laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes. I loved the friendships and family dynamics in this book so much.
One of my favourite characters was Tadek. At the start of the novel, he and Kadou have something, but as time passes, that becomes solely a friendship. And what a great friendship it is. The teasing, the banter. God, Tadek really gets on some theories about Evemer at one point, and he just won’t give up. Even with Evemer almost trying to drown him to get him to stop. I adored him so much. I also loved Melek, who is another one of Kadou’s guards. Melek is non-binary as well as acearo, and they were a sweetheart. A good guard, a good friend and also had some entertaining moments.
I obviously have to say something about the politics in this book as they were so important and interesting. I will admit there were aspects of the world I didn’t quite get, but I didn’t mind as I was still intrigued. The world was fascinating, and it did feel 3D. There were discussions on the economy, the political hierarchy, social structure and more. I’d love to see more in this world and see how different the other countries mentioned are as Rowland definitely knows what they’re doing with their worldbuilding. I also liked that this was a world where gender doesn’t matter. Our nonbinary characters use cir as a pronoun, and there are several characters spread throughout. Gender is just a social construct, and it’s always nice to see fantasy worlds where it doesn’t matter, as the reality is that in our world it’s just something some people decided matters when it doesn’t need to.
A Taste of Gold and Iron is a book that took me longer than I’d like to finish but was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Rowland writes fascinating characters in realistic feeling worlds, and I really need to read more of their work. If you love political fantasy or adored Winters Orbit, then I highly suggest checking this book out.
Title: A Taste of Gold and Iron
Author: Alexandra Rowland
Age Range: Adult
Release Date: 1/9/22