A Taste of Gold and Iron
By Alexandra Rowland
Author’s website: alexandrarowland.net
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar
The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire…
A Taste of Gold and Iron takes place in a fantasy land where sea serpents make it difficult to cross the sea during specific times of the year, where people can taste through touch the purity of metals, and others know when one lies. Here we meet Prince Kadou of Arasht who is trying to do his best for the kingdom and help his sister Sultan Zeliha with her new child while making the less trouble possible; and Evemer Hoskadem a Kahyalar (a somewhat bodyguard/attendant of high ranking) who has recently been promoted to the core-guard and to the service of Prince Kadou.
During the night of the birth of the crown princess Eyne, two events happen. One, there is a robbery in the Shipbuilders Guild were some of the blueprints of ships and the secrets that they use to navigate the sea with during the sea serpents’ breeding times. And a merchant from Oissos, a country with whom Arasht trades, was found smuggling counterfeits of national coins which could devalue the country’s wealth if found out. Kadou steps up and starts to investigate the theft.
Days later, during a hunting party to help everyone de-stress, Kadou gets into an accident with the crown princess Eyne’s Body-father, Siranos. This causes a battle between his guard and Kadou’s Kahyalars, and some of them die. When Zeliha finds out, she is mad and tries to solve a potential issue with Oissos from where Siranos is; she relieves Kadou of most of his duties with the exception of the burglary investigation, she almost exiles him before he gets her to see it will be a bad image for the royal family and instead, she confined to stay in his corner of the palace.
A Taste of Gold and Iron was an interesting story. I had read the summary of the book a while ago and when I started reading the book, I had forgotten the names of the characters. It was funny how the book starts and how Kadou seems to already have a relationship with a different Kahyalar, which was more about having someone to talk to than the actual sex. Then comes Evemer, recently promoted to the core guard all strict and following the rules, while concealing anger through Kadou for the death of his mentor in the accident a few days before. All the ingredients for the hate-to-lovers genre.
The main problem that Kadou has is his low self-esteem, and over the course of the story, we get to see Evemer learn about it and help him. He questions all his ideas and gets in the mindset that everyone hates or is angry at him. But as we see across the story, his view about himself changes and those around him also with Evemer falling in love with him as they get to know each other.
One of the funniest parts of the story was the constant reminder that the Kahyalars gossiped like old ladies. In most cases it was fun when people mentioned it, but as we later learn this causes conflicts and even puts in danger the lives of the royal family.
While A Taste of Gold and Iron centers around Kadou and Evemer, we also get to meet others that contribute something to the story. Melek and Tadek were fun to meet, both from Kadou and Evemer’s perspectives, who seem to open up more to him. Commander Eozena And Zeliha show us a perspective of the palace and the government within the story. Siranos is shown as the villain of the story from the beginning, he seems to only want the power that comes from being the parent of the crown princess and fears that Kaduo will try to take over the throne, but as we read the story, we get to learn more about him and the country he is originally from.
The world in which this story takes place is very interesting. I would have liked to learn more about the sea serpents and how the country of Arasht makes their boats safe. It was fun how Siranos couldn’t understand the meaning of body-father and how little influence or power gave him over the decision of his daughter. Another thing was the mythology of the gods and religions,
“You believe there’s a woman in the sky who has a galaxy for a naval and who birthed the world and put thousand blessings into it, and that she has a brother below the ground, who sends us trials, opportunities to test our strength of character? Literal beings?”
By the end of the story, Kadou and Evemer have declared their love for each other and while the author leaves the story with a good ending, it can also be read as a possible open ending for a future book. I do hope we get to meet them again and the rest of the characters.
If you are a fan of Alexandra Rowland and their work, then I recommend A Taste of Gold and Iron. In this story, a trial is set for two men, as time goes on, they learn they complement each other and help each other grow. It is also a bodyguard-type lover story.