Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quick & Dirty Reviews: Lord of the White Hell - Books One & Two by Ginn Hale

Lord of the White Hell (Book One) by Ginn Hale
Book Blurb: 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.

Ginn Hale is an adept writer and really has a way with evoking a fully realized fantasy world that sucks the reader right in.  The world building is complicated and very detailed but never difficult to follow.  This is a fantasy with a romance as opposed to a Romance Fantasy and it's kinda like a gay Harry Potter. Despite being an adult novel, Lord of the White Hell comes across more as a young adult novel.  (That's not a criticism, just an observation.)  This book is about first love and coming of age, that transition between young adult to adult and emotionally, the characters are quite complex.  There are some sex scenes in the book but they were not graphic, there more for the emotional payoff than to titillate.  (Not that there is anything wrong with titillation.) 
The reader is introduced to this world through the eyes of Kiram, a Haldiim and the first of his kind to be admitted to the Sagrada Academy, a prestigious school for affluent and elite Cadeleonian male youths.  Kiram comes from a matriarchal culture where all sexualities are accepted.  Kiram is gay.  He's never had to come out.  Being gay is accepted fully with no judgements.  But in the patriarchal Cadeleonian society being gay can get you stripped of everything and exiled.  Which makes his attraction to Javier dangerous for they both have much to lose.  The erotic tension in the story is just lovely and fully in line with the characters' emotional arcs.   Hale's characters are all fully realized, each one unique and individual. She has crafted a romantic relationship between the two main characters that rings true and is compelling to read.

Lord of the White Hell (Book Two) by Ginn Hale
Kiram fought his family and Cadeleonian bigots to remain in the Sagrada Academy to prove himself as a mechanist and to dispel the deadly shadow curse that threatens to destroy his upperclassman, Javier Tornesal. But when his efforts provoke retaliation, Kiram's family and home are endangered. Both Kiram and Javier risk everything in a desperate gambit to combat the curse. But they never imagined their battle with come so soon, or that it would be lead by the one person they trust most of all.

Book Two picks up shortly after the first one ended.  While book one was set in the Cadeleonian world, book two takes us to the world of the Haldii.  The relationship between Javier and Kiram has hit some bumps.  Javier wants to keep their relationship a secret but  Kiram comes from a culture that has no issues with homosexuality and he is used to being open about his relationships.  When Javier follows Kiram back to the Haldii district, Javier is amazed at how commonplace and accepted gay relationships are.  There are some great moments in this book.  The scene where Javier realizes that the Haldii people have no issues with homosexuality and that it is possible to live openly in such a relationship was touching.  Having grown up in a world were teh gay is seen as abhorrent, it is almost heartbreaking when Javier realizes that he is not a bad person because he is attracted to men.  
Despite their relationship issues, Kiram is still committed to discovering a way to free Javier from the curse he lives under as well as the identity of the man who is trying to use the curse to destroy Javier.  
Hale builds upon her already complex world, deepening the scope and breadth of the story.  There is a large cast of characters but it is never difficult to keep track of who is who due to Hale's wonderful way of drawing characters.
However, I felt the pacing was off in this book.  Just when things should be hurtling towards a climax at breakneck speed, it started to feel pokey.  And then the finally confronation between the boys and the the bad guy was wrapped up so quick, it was almost anticlimatic.   Still, it's a rich, solid read and completely engaging.  While the mystery behind the white hell is wrapped up at the end of the book, Javier and Kiram's story seems to be only beginning.  A third book would be welcomed as I would like to continue the journey with these two young men.
Lord of the White Hell (Book One) - GRADE: A
Lord of the White Hell (Book Two) - GRADE: B

* Both books were purchased by me...  so that should tell you something.

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