Kingdom of Exiles is a unique, action-packed fantasy romance. The strong start to this series promises that great things will follow.
Leena Edenfrell is a Charmer, a person who can tame magical beasts of varying classes. “Taming” sounds simpler than it is, too — sometimes the act requires self-sacrifice or willingness to endanger oneself. An unfortunate circumstance led to Leena being exiled from her homeland and she seeks a way to return home.
(My only sadness was that my brain decided to think “Pokemon?” the first time that Leena commented about taming beasts, and I couldn’t shake the thought the remainder of the book. *shake first at brain*)
Noc is an “undead” assassin with a catastrophic curse. Someone has put in a contract to kill Leena, and as the guild master, Noc takes on the responsibility to fulfill that contract after his first assassin fails. But first, Leena needs to meet the terms of a deal they strike, and Noc needs to get rid of a curse and avoid falling in love.
(Undead in “Kingdom of Exiles” isn’t what you typically consider undead. The reason this book wasn’t a 5-star read for me was because it took 15 chapters before it was explained why the assassins are undead yet still breathe/eat/etc—info that didn’t need to be withheld so long.)
Both Leena and Noc are strong characters with their own motivations. They’re each the stars of their own tales, and I enjoyed reading both points of view. The magic system is unique, and the world and the beasts that inhabit it are vivid and fun to read about. Each beast has its own terms and provide different benefits (or drawbacks), and it was fun to discover them alongside the members of the Assassin’s guild.
The fantasy story was strong enough that I nearly forgot this was also a romance book until I hit the first sex scene. The sex that is in it is graphic but non-gratuitous, and if that’s not your thing, you can easily skip it. I enjoyed it all, but when there’s a powerful fantasy plot, I’d rather it be the star, and the plot shines in Kingdom of Exiles.
Over the years, I’ve given fewer and fewer books 4+ star ratings. Kingdom of Exiles is a strong example of excellent writing. If you love adventurous fantasy, I highly recommend checking this book out.
In the meantime, I’ll be impatiently awaiting book two.
I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.