Summary: 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. (From Goodreads)
I wanted to review this as one book because there’s really no good reason why this is split into two. Someone on Goodreads mentioned that it’s probably because Hale didn’t want to throw a 700-page book at us, but there’s no real conclusion to the first book, so you’re forced into 700 pages anyway.
Anyway, back to the story. I thought I was going to get a Harry Potter style boarding school book with some romance thrown in (which I was totally cool with and if you have any recs similar throw them my way thanks.) What I actually got was well-thought out and uniquely crafted world building and a goddamn romance for the ages. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
Kiram and Javier were so fucking entertaining. Their chemistry was fantastically written to the point where I think my heart stopped at one point. Every interaction they had breathtaking to the point where the rest of the story didn’t seem as interesting. Oh and they started banging, and I pretty much died.
I enjoyed Hale’s take on homosexuality and homophobia as told through the two different cultures. Maybe I don’t read enough, but I found the angst of Javier fighting his urges juxtaposed against Kiram’s full acceptance of his gayness very interesting.
The first book is definitely better than the second book. This could be my fondness for boarding school stories talking, but since the majority of the second book takes place outside of the school, it felt… lackluster? Maybe that’s not the right word. I just felt that Hale had spent so much time and effort in the first book getting us acclimated to the Sagrada Academy that I really missed it when Kiram left. I enjoyed meeting Kiram’s family and seeing the Haldiim culture, though.
The ending felt rushed and predictable. I can clock a red herring from a mile away, so I wasn’t worried about Father what’s-his-name. Honestly, I didn’t really care about the curse, I just kind of wanted Kiram and Javier to run off and be happy together.
All in all, it’s a solid story.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (more like three and a half)