A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

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.


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.


DNF @ 35%

I try not to let my opinions of one book cloud my thoughts going into another, but after having suffered my way through Foz Meadow’s A Strang and Stubborn Endurance, the parallels were too strong to not be apprehensive. Both novels are m/m fantasy romance novels written by non-m/m writers, published by Tor imprints, with political intrigue, timid/cowardly nobility, and published within a month of each other. The comparisons are bound to happen. Frankly, if I’d read this one before Strange and Stubborn, its likely this one I would have masochistically forced my way through and the other been given the DNF. Because the same issues of romance in favor of any semblance of well-thought-through plot and low-effort worldbuilding are clearly showing.

As this is a DNF review, I’ll can only comment on the absurdity of plot points that have occurred so far. At the very start, we have our MC Kadou, cowardly (empathize heavily) prince of Arasht, who finds himself investigating a break-in the night his sister gives birth. The father and sister’s lover Siranos, an ambassador from another country, catches him, get’s angry, and physically marks him in front of witnesses, to absolutely no punishment whatsoever. Tensions rise until a hunt, where the Siranos get’s too close to Kadou while chasing a deer, a fight breaks out and two bodyguards, kahyalar, end up dead.

Eventually, the sister, sultan and leader of this country, hears about this and decides that somehow Kadou is clearly responsible for a) the actions of her lover, who gets off with a slap on the wrist and continues to run around insulting Kadou at will and b) the actions of his kahyalar, who’s sole job is to protect their damn prince. This is about the first 5% of the book and already had me rolling my eyes in ridiculousness. And of course, no one, let alone the goddamn ruler of the country, seems to care about the break-in that may directly affect the secrets of trade that run the entire country.

While I won’t go into as heavy detail with the rest of the book, I’ll say that the rest of the events that I read through felt equally ridiculous in the lack of importance or care placed in them. Kadou and his new kahyalar Evemer get attacked by people in the alleyway 3v2! No mention is made of how well trained the attackers are to supposedly capable of overpowering the man who’s supposed to have spent his entire life training combat because his job is a fucking bodyguard. The guy in charge of investigating the break-in “mysteriously” decided there’s clearly no evidence, no trails to pursue to continue this investigation three days after the investigation and everyone more or less says ‘yeah, that checks out’. If there’s an opposite to a ‘competence kink’, this book is that.

On the worldbuilding side, I wanted to touch on the role of the kahyalars are how handwave-y their positions seemed to be. At first, I thought they were just Rowland’s fantasy word for bodyguard, given the book’s marketing of bodyguard x prince. Then Evemer is suddenly shaving, dressing, and doing Kadou’s hair and it turns out kahyalar are specially trained bodyguards who can also play musical instruments, have familiarity with politics, and learn various other skills to better serve the ruling family of Arasht. Also they gossip a lot, a fact Rowland reminds the reader of over and over again. But around 33%, we learn that there’s actually thousands of kahyalar and they basically cover all the admin jobs in the country. Some of them are even stuck sorting through fucking flour in the palace. Which brings me back to my original question, of what the hell are kahyalar?

Finally, I don’t understand the popularity of Cowardley Men^TM that seem to be en vogue right now. What is the appeal of a character who can’t do anything for themselves?? Kadou, is, frankly put, a walking dumpster fire of a mess. The entire time I read, I had a burning question in the back of my mind of what the hell does Kadou actually do in this government? He’s supposedly the Duke of the Harbors and can requisition any boat he wants, but as far as I can tell, does no regular administration work. He’s good with economics and scholarship, but the most he does with his is tutor students in bars in exchange for drinks (also wtf). He does no regular paperwork, seemingly oversees nothing in particular, gets pushed around by literally anyone and everyone with the slightest forceful tone, and seems to have to hide behind the kahyalar captain for anything to actually happen. Evemer, what do you see in this man???

Overall, I rate this book a 2/5. The plot and worldbuilding felt like a poor first draft, with little care given to logical consistency, or just logic in general. The characters, ‘coward’ and ’emotionless stone wall’ had no appeal to me whatsoever. A shame because the cover is spectacular.

r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Published in 2022
  • Features Mental Health
  • Features Biological Family Ties

Publication Date: 30 August 2022
Publisher: Tordotcom
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 512
Word Count: ~160,000
ISBN: 1250800382
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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