One false coin could topple an empire.
Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, has no intention of wrestling for imperial control with his sister, the queen. Yet he remains at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court – the father of the queen’s new child. Then a hunting party goes terribly awry, and Kadou finds himself under suspicion of attempted murder.
To prove his loyalty to his sister and salvage his reputation, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds. He enlists the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. But what appears to be a straightforward crime spirals into a complex counterfeiting operation, with a powerful enemy at its heart.
In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy. The conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing – and bring about its ruin.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Phew, this book sure is something! I will start off by admitting that when I first started A Taste of Gold and Iron I was 80% convinced that it would be a disappointing read for me. I’d recently seen a relatively negative review of it, and the on-ramp for the world-building in terms of character names and terminology was quite steep. There are lots of terms like kahyalar, Oissos, satyota, and altin and quite a few characters to become familiar with right at the start. However, dear reader, I am very glad to have been wrong in my prediction, because once I was settled with the world and the cast, I was hooked and I absolutely raced through the second half.
The book is told from two different points of view – both in third person narrative: the first is Prince Kadou, crown prince and Nervous Wreck, and the second is Evemer Hoskadem, member of Kadou’s core guard and Mr Stoneface. The main point of conflict in this story is political and economic, with a break-in at the Shipbuilder’s Guild occurring the same day as the birth of the Queen’s daughter, risking secrets the country of Arasht has used to build itself up as the strongest economic power in the known world. Kadou is tasked with investigating it, and is keen to prove to his sister that all he wants is to build up the country, and has no designs on the throne. However, having confided some fears to one of his guards, a misunderstanding causes his intentions to come under suspicion and he has to work even harder to earn the Queen’s good graces.
This is where Evemer comes in, as he is known for his rigidity and even temper, and he is tasked to keep an eye on Kadou to avoid further political disasters. Evemer looks down on the prince, thinking him carless and superficial, but soon realises that Kadou is an extremely anxious person, constantly worrying about the effect every small action might have on others, and as the two men continue their investigation they realise that they both underestimated the other. It’s a classic opposites-attract story, and it was a delight to watch the two of them start pining for each other. Because this is, most definitely, a kissing book. There is political tension, and some great action scenes, but the core of A Taste of Gold and Iron is the romance that develops between Kadou and Evemer.
It was built up exquisitely, with some well placed tropes (‘You have to kiss me so they don’t recognise us’ is great), and I think I was as full of longing by the end as they were. I also loved the supporting cast, especially Melek and his hilarious outbursts and Commander Eozena, the most badass of them all. In fact, the more I think of it, the more I feel like I should reread it and appreciate it all from the start… and that says it all, really! The only thing I struggled with was picturing the setting, which I can often do quite well, but that’s a small complaint! If you like slow-burn romance, with a light fantasy setting and a bit of a mystery, then you should pick this book up right away!
Published: 1st September 2022 by Tor
Genre: fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+
Narration style: third person past tense, two points of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: obsessive/intrusive thoughts, death, grief, sexual content