So, I read A Touch of Darkness (in one sitting) on Xmas Day, as I was (happily) home alone and relaxing. It was exactly what I wanted it to be. And I was in the mood for more like it as New Year’s Day approached. However, I also had been good with where that one finished and wasn’t interested in more from Hades and Persephone, at least right now, so I decided to give St. Clair’s new book/series a try instead, since the vibe on the first one had been so right. And let me tell you, not only did this hit the spot, it was even better! And honestly now I’m frustrated (in a good way) because I do want more from these characters, but the rest of the series isn’t out yet! Gahhhhh!
King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair
“I did not want to die a hero. I wanted to live as a conqueror.”
King Adrian and his vampire army are on the doorstep of Isolde’s kingdom and she would do anything to save her people from their vengeful conquering. So, when her father invites Adrian in to treat with him, and his offer of peaceful power transfer is contingent on Isolde becoming his wife, she agrees. Her secret plan, of course, is to use this opportunity to get close enough to kill him, but when her assassination attempt fails, she realizes she may need to get to know him better to really uncover any weaknesses. Over the time she spends with him traveling back to his home country of Revekka, and the weeks with him there, Isolde starts to realize that there may be more to his monstrousness than she’d originally thought. And there is absolutely no denying the physical pull between them, the sexual pull (and lots more than just pull!) are real.
Y’all, there was nothing deep about this book. Nothing. And I loved every flipping second of it. First, and most importantly, there was so much sex. And it was so good and so steamy. I saw a review of this one on Goodreads that said “This might be for you if your first priority is vampire sex.” And while that was a one-star review…it was also exactly right. And since I went into it with vampire sex as a priority, I’m giving it a very high star rating for the exact same reason. Moral of the story: know what you are getting into because it’s exactly what you get. And for me, it was exactly what I wanted. Related, there was some light, interesting, reflection on how desire and lust are often coated in shame (especially for women) and it does not have to and should not be that way (along with the recognition of love and sex not having to exist hand in hand, even if they eventually do).
Other than that, I have to admit that I am also a sucker for the “good monster” trope. Like, in this world, vampires are expected to be terrible and, in fact, are not, it’s a lot of misinformation and misconception. I am particularly drawn in by this when it’s in contrast or juxtaposition with a “bad human” alternative, as it was here. Great messaging around how looks/assumptions can be so deceiving. Another thing I was totally here for was Isolde’s bloodthirstiness. I mean IRL, I obviously vote for “trial and proven guilty” and whatnot. But in this fantasy setting, I’m *down* with all the immediate stabbing of icky men (and Adrian’s unrepentant support of it).
Plot-wise…this is where I was surprised. There was a lot more to the world-building here than I had expected. The story behind Adrian’s “curse,” the connection that Isolde has to his past, the history of witches and magic and how that ties in with Adrian’s current-day conquest(s) and his interest in Isolde was all way more interesting than I had anticipated. And then that ending, with Isolde’s father’s visit – shocking! – along with a bit of a cliff-hanger that definitely makes me want to know more. I also appreciated that, while this was mostly entertaining and fun and sexy, this plot gave it a bit more complexity as it introduced/intertwined the concept of perspective in history, and the dominant voices being the ones whose story persists, even when that story is not, actually, the “factual” truth.
This novel had a bit of everything you want in an escapist read: magic and magical creatures (yea, I love vampires, I blame Buffy), drama (political and interpersonal), fantasy-style fighting and violence, and spectacular (quality and quantity) sex scenes. Like I said, I thought I’d be “first book and done” with this series because I was with A Touch of Darkness, but the fantasy and surrounding world here grabbed me so much more and I want to see where everything goes next (plus, I need more of Adrian and Isolde together; *sweating* thinking about it). So, here I am now, unexpectedly having to wait for the next book to be published (to be fair, at this point, I am waiting on my library to get it, but still, waiting).
Nothing extra-deep, but a few choice quotes:
“There was a difference between a monster and someone who could be monstrous.”
“History is just perspective. It changes depending on your side.”
“Secrets only make the world curious. Better to display than to hide.”
“What have you learned? \ Things that scare me, I said. \ Do you mean that you have learned the truth? he asked.”
2 thoughts on “King of Battle and Blood”
This sounds like a great read! I’ve been looking for more myth-based fiction lately so this sounds perfect. Thanks for sharing!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Absolutely! I just really enjoyed every second of reading this. So entertaining and sexy – a perfect escape.