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Monday, September 24, 2018

'A Promise of Fire' The Kingmaker Chronicles #1 by Amanda Bouchet

From the BLURB:
Kingmaker. Soothsayer. Warrior. Mage. Kingdoms would rise and fall for her . . . if she is ever found.

In the icy North, where magic is might, an all-powerful elite ruthlessly guided by a glacial Queen have grown to dominate the world. Now rebellion is stirring in the rough, magic-poor South, where for the first time in memory a warlord has succeeded in uniting the tribal nations.

Stuck in the middle is Cat - circus performer and soothsayer - safely hidden behind heavy make-up, bright colours and the harmless illusion of the circus. Until someone suspects she's more than she seems . . .

Captured by the Southern warlord Griffin, Cat's careful camouflage is wearing thin. For how long can - or should - she conceal the true extent of her power? Faced with dragons, homicidal mages, rival Gods and the traitorous longings of her own heart, she must decide: is it time to claim her destiny and fight?

‘A Promise of Fire’ was the 2016 fantasy romance debut and first book in the ‘Kingmaker Chronicles’ trilogy from American author, Amanda Bouchet.

Okay. Full-disclosure: I did actually read this when it came out in 2016 and LOVED it, RAVED about it. But then book two came and went in 2017, and book three released this year in 2018 and I just didn’t get around to reading them (but I did buy them!). I think some part of me was putting them aside to binge, and/or pull them out when I needed to be out of a reading-slump. So I went back and re-read book one, read book two and three and did just that – BINGED, big time and I am unsurprised to say that my initial assessment still holds true. This trilogy is *amazing* - and if you’re new to fantasy romance or wanting to try it out for the first time, I’d put this at top of your list. ASAP!

The ‘Kingmaker Chronicles’ trilogy is – best I can describe it – a cross between the brilliant schlock 90s and early-00s television series ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ and ‘Hercules: The Legendary Journeys’ meets romance writing by the likes of Nalini Singh and Thea Harrison. It’s pulling on Greek-mythology as we follow a young woman – Cat – who has a magical ability to tell when people are lying, and is captured by a ‘Warlord’ whose family recently united the working class to band against an unfair and unjust society. Griffin sees Cat as an opportunity to play the noble families who now bow down to his family, and ensure loyalty – along with his ‘Beta Team’ band of warriors consisting of his brother Carver, and friends Kato and Flynn, Griffin captures Cat and starts the long journey back to his recently fortified new castle and realm.

But Cat has secrets these men can’t know – like the truth of her birth and birthright, and what the Gods have planned for her.

I will say – don’t be put off by the “capture” storyline, gross as it sounds. It’s actually something that is constantly interrogated throughout the books; and Griffin and his men don’t do anything untoward to Cat (aside from – y’know – capturing her in the first place, um) and underlying all of the motivations is a bit of God-play at work. And Cat never lets up with the whole ‘being captured’ thing either – she is a fighter through and through, and as they meander across the lands back to Griffin’s castle, she never once lets up and always keeps her struggle. Even when she starts to find Griffin’s trio of soldiers – Carver, Kato and Flynn – unfairly kind and charismatic, and Griffin himself to be an alluring and inspirational man …

In that respect, there is a *tiny* hint of the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series in Bouchet’s too – for that moment in the series timeline when Claire was captured by the Highland Clansmen and made to march back to their castle, all while tucked against the chest of one James Fraser who she comes to begrudgingly care for…

And much like ‘Outlander’ eventually does, there builds this indelible trust and connection between Griffin and Cat – and when that switch is flipped, everything changes and the novel becomes a charged and electrifying love story that is H-O-T. Cat and Griffin are up there with some of my all-time favourite romance novel pairings; her fiery temper and his level-head, and their fierce loyalty to each other and those they love. Not to mention their scenes are searing and intense, written to utter perfection by Amanda Bouchet.

Though ‘Heart on Fire’ leaves a few cliff-hangers dangling, especially regarding Cat’s origins – I actually think this is also a very good self-contained book (I mean, I read it back in 2016 and even without diving into books 2 and 3, I felt satisfied)

It’s not wonder when this book came out in 2016 it raced through romance communities like wildfire, and heralded a new ‘must read’ author. It’s mythological, sublime romance.


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