After a tragic misunderstanding, Kadou must prove his loyalty to his sultan by solving a mystery that could bring down their empire in A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland.
From the Blurb:
Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, 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 which results in his humiliation.
To prove his loyalty to the sultan, 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 Arasht, 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.
Kadou is an anxious mess of a character. Prone to near-violent panic attacks, Kadou’s anxiety manifests itself over everything big and small that could become a problem to his dynasty and, most importantly, his sister. It’s his devotion to her that leads him to the tragic misunderstanding that kickstarts the book’s plot, with his character arc revolving around him learning to co-exist with his anxiety. As a character, he’s immediately loveable, if only for his fierce loyalty to his friends and family and the idea of doing good by his people. While his relationships with those around him add another level of complexity to his character, and the book as a whole.
His relationship with Evemer dominates that aspect of the book as they go from a people that barely tolerate each other to lovers through serious adventures as well as amusing hijinks. Rowland adds more popular romance tropes, making the whole of their relationship a wonderful read.
Alexandra Rowland does a commendable job portraying the crippling anxiety that leads to panic attacks, from the little stressers that add to the burden during the day to the event that breaks the damn. She doesn’t sugarcoat the effects this has on Kadou’s mentality, nor does she diminish how serious this condition is in the eyes of other characters. While a tough read because of this, A Taste of Gold and Iron is ultimately uplifting as Kadou learns to work through this without being magically cured.
While the book is mainly a romance, the world of A Taste of Gold and Iron is infused with a subtle magic system that intrigued me. The main aspects broached here are touch sensitivity, where touching an object conjures a specific feeling and/or memory, and being able to tell whether a person is lying with a glance. Unfortunately these aren’t expanded upon, being used only when the plot calls for them.
Economics and politics are also amongst the subjects that keep popping up throughout the book. The gold exchange is the foundation of the empire, while economics are a passion for Kadou and politics rule his life. Rowland does a lovely job integrating these aspects into the story without boring her readers too much; I found it especially entertaining when Evemer was close to zoning out during Kadou’s explanations as it’s very retable, as a less economically-minded person.
A Taste of Gold and Iron is also full of LGBTQ+ representation of all kinds that is openly accepted by the world Rowland has built. Kadou is gay, Evemer and Tadek are queer, there are a number of non-binary characters that use a separate set of pronouns throughout both secondary and background characters, while Melek is also asexual. I’d go as far as to say that the lack of homophobia and conflicts due to sexuality was one of my favourite things about this book.
Overall A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland tells a heart-warming tale about a prince who must learn to let himself relax every so often with the help of those around him, while trying to win a frustratingly rule-abiding bodyguard to his side. The romance pairs well with this mystery plot, with Rowland’s diverse LGBTQ+ representation making her world a heart-warming scenery to experience.
Editor’s Note: A Taste of Gold and Iron is an adult book and as such contains references to violence, sex and has one sex scene towards the end of the book.