Author: Alexandra Rowland
Publisher: Tor, 2022 (Hardcover)
Length: 500 pages
Genre: Adult; Fantasy
Started: September 3, 2022
Finished: September 5, 2022
From the inside cover:
Kadou, the shy prince of Arast, 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 that 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 Arast, 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 heard a lot of good things about this book and pre-ordered it months ago. It was so good that I got through half of it in one sitting by staying up until 3am and would've kept right on reading but forced myself to get some semblance of decent sleep.
A Taste of Gold and Iron takes place in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire (but with a stronger matriarchal influence) where certain people are able to "touch-taste" metals and know their composition and where they originated from just from touch alone. Prince Kadou (pronounced just like the French "cadeau") has just become an uncle, and he couldn't be happier; not just because the sultan"s (his sister's) child is beautiful, but because her birth places him farther down the line of succession to the throne the anxious prince does not want. When his missteps with the sultan's lover inadvertently lead to insult and several deaths, Kadou must atone by uncovering the mystery behind recent counterfeiting and a break-in, which he suspects are connected. He is appointed a new bodyguard, Evemer, who immediately dislikes the prince due to the deaths he was responsible for, and begrudges his new position serving someone so careless, flighty and negligent.
Some people have criticized this novel saying it contains fanfiction tropes, but in my opinion not all fanfiction writing is inherently bad, and though there are indeed tropes, they're crafted exceptionally well and fits seamlessly into the story. This is definitely more of a book focused on character development and the relationship between Kadou and Evemer as opposed to a more plot-driven story, so if you enjoy those types of stories, this book is for you.
The relationship between Kadou and Evemer is one of the better definitions of a slow-burn romance I've seen recently: Evemer needs to discover Kadou's true nature and be less judgemental, and Kadou needs to let himself want things at all. The romance is handled incredibly well and doesn't feel rushed or too slow at times.
Aside from Kadou and Evemer, the secondary characters are great and add a lot of comic relief. Tadek had me laughing at all of his lines, Melek is adorable, and Tenzin, the truth-telling witch introduced towards the end of the story has probably one of the funniest lines in the whole book.
I love the diversity of this novel. The world resembles the Ottoman Empire, so everything from the food to the clothes is respective to that area of the world. The level of detail the author goes into with just the clothing alone was beautiful (it made me jealous of Kadou's wardrobe). Gender is well-represented here, with non-binary characters existing with unique pronouns, and the fact that Zeliha is sultan at all and with the different levels of fatherhood described, it was welcome change from your typical fantasy. Also, Kadou's anxiety and panic attacks are handled sensitively and well, so that was appreciated too.
If you're in the mood for a well-written fantasy set in a unique world with some good, well-written fanfiction nods, pick this one up.
Thoughts on the cover:
So. Freaking. Gorgeous. The cover artist deserves an award for this one, it's so, so pretty.