book reviews · m/m romance

Book Review: Ginn Hale’s “Lord of the White Hell: Book One” (2010)

51ctv21i5ul-_sx322_bo1204203200_I get weak in the knees for a good Boarding School story! And this one has everything you’d expect, plus more: a charming setting, a cast of entertaining fellow students, villainous and virtuous teachers, a roommate who’s both startlingly attractive and troublesome…yes, it doesn’t get much better than this! In short: this is a delightful read, thoroughly engaging and enjoyable.

This book is a pleasure to read from the very first page. I guarantee you’ll be hooked before you even finish the first chapter! The action begins almost at once, and is very well-paced, while still having plenty of time for slower, more intimate scenes. The characters are exceptionally well-written and likeable, even the “love-to-hate” ones.  Hale’s writing is sheer perfection; smooth, clear, and concise, and without any unnecessary flourishes or flowery description to distract from the story. I could honestly praise Hale’s writing style for days. Reading her work is sheer bliss.

Hale’s main character Kiram “Kiri” Kir-Zaki is smart, observant, and empathetic, and gives the reader a perfect view of Kiram’s new friends and love interest. Through Kiram’s eyes we see the complex and developing character of Javier Tornesal, the inheritor of the “White Hell” and the Tornesal curse. The heat and chemistry between the two of them is intense, but their emotional connection is even more satisfying. It’s easy to see why Javier is so taken with Kiram: as an outsider and foreigner, Kiram has none of the innate prejudices and fear of the carrier of the white hell, and he’s strong-willed enough to stand up to Javier’s forceful personality.

Just why Kiram has fallen so hard for Javier is a little harder to understand. And anyone who’s ever had a friend or partner who acts differently in public than with them will understand immediately Kiram’s distress at how Javier treats him in front of his friends. After reading the book I couldn’t help but feel that Javier would have to go to great lengths to be worthy of Kiram. I wonder if other readers had a similar reaction? But this may just be me being too over-protective of Kiram: he’s just so good. Others will probably be much more sympathetic of Javier than I’ve managed to be! And of course, this tension between them makes for a thoroughly gripping and entertaining story.

If there is one negative to the book, however, it’s the ending. It felt too rushed, and too much like cheap emotional manipulation. There’s a strong feeling of the author just needing to end the story somehow, anyhow, and for that reason it feels a little out of place. Having said that, this book is clearly designed to be read alongside its sequel, and I’d actually strongly recommend you buy both at the same time so you can keep reading right away. That’ll wash the ever-so-slightly bad taste out of your mouth at once, and you’ll be right back on track loving this story.

{Summary from Amazon.com:}
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.

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