Review: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

The Gilded King has a lot going on.

From the very beginning, the book is set in a world that has been taken over by zombies and vampires thanks to some sort of apocalypse. The Gilded King is set in a post-apocalyptic world where only one civilized city seems to have remained run by a noble class made up entirely of Vampires. The city they live in is blue and safe, and everything beyond the boundaries is red and dangerous. The book unfolds itself from two key points of views. One from Julia, our human protagonist and Cameron (referred to as Cam throughout the book), our vampire protagonist. From these two main characters, we learn about the city of Blue and the dangerous world outside of it.

From Julia, we see how humans are treated in this society. The human world is separated into Servants (the lowest of humans), Attendants (next rank of humans that are basically also a vampire’s personal blood bank), or Candidates (the worthiest of humans, ones that might be given the chance of becoming a vampire). Candidates are the only humans who have a chance of becoming nobles.

Julia, a teenager, is our eyes and ears for the city of Blue. While at first, she’s completely averse to the way humans are treated in the city of Blue, that all changes when she meets a young noble named Lucas.

From Cam, we learn about what the world outside of the Blue is really like. Outside the city walls is a place of vampires gone rogue and an unstoppable virus that affects vampires and humans in entirely different ways. There is a war that’s been building up for centuries as tensions against the vampires rise. Cam is how we see the war as it’s raging and how it will change the game for the humans who have been able to survive so far.

In the Gilded King, Information and key plot points are sprinkled throughout this first book so that the reader is left piecing information together bit by bit. It’s not immediately easy to understand how the city of Blue came to be and what exactly the Red outside of it really is.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Lots of stories drip feed their readers lore and background about the world that they’re in.

The problem with the Gilded King is that the characters are built in a way that makes them feel one-dimensional.

I won’t go into exactly why since that’s spoiler heavy. Inevitably though, there isn’t enough to leave you intrigued about the characters by the time the last chapter and cliffhangers of the book are presented. The end of the Gilded King makes it clear that it was written to keep the reader waiting for book two.

Beyond complaints about the characters, it was strange to be reading a book centered around vampires in 2018 when the fad feels like it’s fading. The Gilded King was released six years after the last of the Twilight movies and a year after Vampire Diaries had ended. Aren’t we collectively tired of vampires yet? Wasn’t The Mortal Instruments fantasy’s last-ditch attempt at making this particular subset of the genre cool again?

These fads are cyclical, they’ll come back around, but focusing on vampires now is a little old-fashioned. I’m conflicted. I feel like I’m being too critical in my judgment of the first book in this series. I hope the second book surprises me, but I’m not sure what The Sovereign series will add to the genre.

Although I wasn’t a fan of the way the plot was spread out in the Gilded King, I can appreciate the way the author sprinkled key plot points and new lore developments throughout the book. Cam’s back story isn’t just handed to you and the book makes the reader work to piece things together. If you want to understand the city of Blue and what in the heck is happening in the Red surrounding the city, you need to put the work in.

In the end, the Gilded King is fine. It’s just fine. Maybe I’m exhausted by the idea of vampires. Or maybe I had to work too hard to piece together all the information strewn throughout the book. But by the time I reached the last page of the Gilded King, the cliffhangers left by the author didn’t matter enough to me.

There was so much story to be set up in the Gilded King, so much lore to establish without giving too much away that the characters felt incomplete even when it was over. I suppose since this is book one in a series of however many, this was meant to set the scene rather than involve you.

Every fantasy genre book you pick up will have its own rules and lore to learn and figure out. I don’t have a problem with that. Except with the Gilded King coming in just under 288 pages, focusing so much on the environment meant something would be left lacking. And in this case, unfortunately, it’s the characters. I will say though, that the cliffhangers at the end of the book are great. They’re a real ‘oh snap’ moment.

It’s fine. It’s just fine.

2.5 / 5

See y’all for The Silver Queen (Sovereign #2)!

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Gilded King by Josie JaffreyThe Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey
Series: Sovereign Series #1
Genres: Fantasy, young adult

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In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do

The Thirteenth Gate by Kat Ross – Review

The Thirteenth Gate
Kat Ross
Historical Fiction, Fantasy
The Thirteenth Gate (Dominion Mysteries) (Volume 2)
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It’s the Winter of 1988 and a doctor suspected of being Jack the Ripper, murders a man before disappearing from the asylum that held him. It’s up to Lady Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec, to hunt down the most dangerous man they know. There’s more to the world than we’re allowed to see and in Victorian London, they’ve started to take precautions against the supernatural elements that threaten their world.

But Lady Vivienne is walking a dangerous line and one wrong step could upset the balance between worlds, throwing the Thirteenth Gate wide open to create hell on earth.

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Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery – Review

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
By Kurtis J. Wiebe (Author), Roc Upchurch (Artist)
Graphic Novels, Fantasy, Humour
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
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So just a heads up that from the very beginning, this is going to be a crass review and not my normal write-up, but then this is a crass/unusual book so… fair game?

Meet the Rat Queens. Four women who make up a gang of mercenaries, who work hard and play harder. To quote the back of the book: “They’re a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hir and they’re in the business of killing all the god’s creatures for profit.”

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7 Amazing Fantasy Novels with Queer Main Characters

One of the great joys of my life has been finding queer fiction that I wasn’t expecting. Whether I was expecting or not, queer inclusion in a fantasy novel always makes me way more invested than I might have been otherwise. We all need a little escapism and fantasy, the place where everything can happen, it always tends to be straight people flouncing around the world and getting to do all the cool stuff.

My first true love in the fiction world was fantasy, so here are seven of the books that I’ve fallen in love with that feature queer fantasy narratives.

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Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey – Review

There are few things that would creep me out more than being on an island where there were only three people, but the island was big enough for people to hide on. Can you imagine it? You’re on an island, settling in for the night and all of a sudden you hear someone scream or even just the rustle of leaves. Was there a person in that bush? Am I about to be attacked by an animal? If I fall and break my leg, will I starve and die like that?

Just thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I honestly wish that was the direction that Miranda and Caliban had taken. Instead, we were taken on a strange journey of abuse and isolation that meandered before sprinting toward its end.

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Deer Life by Ron Sexsmith – Review

[I received a copy of this book through an ARC giveaway.]

It already looks like I’m going to be in the minority on Goodreads for my thoughts on Deer Life.

Normally it doesn’t bother me if my opinion goes against the grain, but I don’t like giving out low scores. I know how much effort it takes to write a novel and I know how much it can hurt to have your work criticized, so I try to be honest while softening my opinions. I can be truthful without being a jerk, you know?

But with Deer Life, there wasn’t a single thing I liked beyond the cover. The cover is gorgeous and whoever drew it should be getting a ton of money. One look at the cover and I knew it was a book that I wanted to read, but the story itself didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Nothing else in the book works for me.

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The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward – Review

There are work weeks where you feel like it’s never going to end. Or maybe it’s when school is being killer. My go to has always been light-hearted books in those weeks. Ones that were cute, had some stakes to them, but that never made me anxious or worried. The Potion Diaries fits into this niche perfectly. Want a way to unwind? Want something fun and uncomplicated to read as you’re winding down for the weekend?

Start here.

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A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez – Review

There are beautiful accidents in the world and this was one of them. I was in the library and let someone pick out a book for me. Normally, I tend to stay away from the witchy side of things. It’s been done to death and it would just mean either a really ugly woman or a disgustingly sexy vixen who left drooling men in her wake. Neither of them would really interest me so I was ready to dismiss the novel out of hand. Then I saw the tagline:

“A tale of vengeance, true love, and cannibalism”

How on earth can you go wrong with that?

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