Title: Lord of the White Hell (The Cadeleonian Series #1)
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: September 11, 2017
Genre(s): Fantasy Romance
Page Count: 368 pages
Reviewed by: NeRdyWYRM
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements. But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions. However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram’s as well.
Hellfire Has Never Been So Hell-icious
I loved this story. It took me a while to get into it, but that’s mainly because I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary romance. For the longest time it’s been that or PNR, so … it was hard to switch gears at first. I also don’t usually go for books with barely legal protagonists. Reading about that age group having sex, now that I’m old and busted and I have teenagers of my own, can be kind of … squicky. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem here.
While it took me a minute to get into the groove of the whole thing, once I did, it was full steam engine ahead. I absolutely adored Javier’s character. Even at the beginning when Kiri’s POV did its level best to make the Lord of White Hell look like a total shit, I just wasn’t buying it. Kiri’s internal dialogues kept labeling Javier as arrogant, but I really didn’t see it unless Javier was around his friends or forced to use his ducal persona.
On the other hand, Javier’s fellow Hellions, all future lords of other demesnes in Cadeleonia, were all like that all the time. I saw flashes from the very beginning of a decent person with vulnerabilities under the façade Javier put forth, so I knew there was way more to him than that nonchalant smirky mask he wore like a second skin.
Personally, I think Kiri’s initial antipathy stemmed more from resentment than anything Javier did or did not do. Now Kiri, on the other hand, was the snootiest Judgy McJudgerson I’ve seen in a long time. Kiri seemed determined to disbelieve, disregard and otherwise ignore the possibility that the things he ‘knew’ or was taught were not necessarily the way things actually were. He was in a great deal of denial about the mystical and spiritual aspects of both the Haldiim and Cadeleonian cultures, which was a huge underlying theme in this story.
That aspect of Kiri’s character profile surprised me because the Haldiim people, his people, were especially attuned to the spiritual. His pigheadedness and his habit of making assumptions made Kiri come across as a little bit of a superior ass, IMHO. Still, I was slightly sympathetic, despite the douchebaggery, because I think Kiri clung to his virtually atheistic—for lack of a better word—beliefs because otherwise, The Unquantifiables and Intangibles (scary things, those) challenged the mechanical orderliness of his world.
As the embodiment of everything Kiri refused to believe in, Javier was an enormous slap in the face. Javier’s obvious connection to something otherworldly made Kiri’s intractability in that regard—which he would have considered a strength of reason and belief in his convictions—look more like willful ignorance and petulance. It made me understand where a good portion of the undeserved resentment Kiri felt towards Javier came from. There was a quote in this book, a Bahiim saying, that I wish Kiri had applied to his own perceptions a time or two along the way.
“To fear what you do not understand is to mistake ignorance for safety.”
In addition, the clash of beliefs, the enormous amount of UST between Javier and Kiri (in an unapologetically homophobic culture), the divide created by class and ethnicity, and the inherent prejudices that flourished due to a long history of hostility between the Haldiim and Cadeleonian served to create an atmosphere that didn’t offer anything in the way of a possible happy compromise to bridge the seemingly insurmountable gap between the MCs. At times, the obstacles Kiri and Javier faced in trying to form a true relationship appeared impossible to overcome. I liked not being able to guess how things were going to be ‘fixed’ for these two.
For all these reasons, and probably a few more I forgot to mention, there was some push/pull and back-and-forth drama with these MCs even though it wasn’t overly angst-ridden. It wasn’t as aggravating as it could have been because it actually made sense for the age and maturity level of the characters and it didn’t go too far overboard.
Warning: This is a cliffhanger. The story leaves off with the MCs in a relatively bad spot from a relationship standpoint. You’ll have to read it to find out the rest because there was a little bit of everything good about fantasy romance in this title. You had intriguing MCs, great world-building, interesting peripheral characters/allies, an unpredictable villain, an excellent plot, a relatively unique society (or four), enough steam to make sense for a slow burn romance with young MCs, some teachable moments, and some skillfully elicited and genuine feels.
I would recommend The Lord of the White Hell to anyone who likes the fantasy genre, and not just those who enjoy M/M romance. I have a long list of other books I should be reading right now, but I was utterly compelled to move directly on to the second book in this series. I will be sorry when I reach the end of it because I won’t have time for book 3 yet. Sigh. So, I suppose I’ll be saying farewell for now to these new friends. Still, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The Cadeleonian Series