Hailey Turner-The Prince’s Poison Vow

Decades ago, when I was a kid, I discovered the fantasy genre. I was all about the sword and sorcery stuff for a long time. Then I discovered the epic saga fantasy stuff. Thanks Rankin and Bass for the animated Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. I still sing Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way and Frodo of the Nine Fingers. I read LOTR and the Hobbit, and even the Simarillion. I may not always read as much high fantasy or sword and sorcery types now, but I’ve never lost my love of them. Why, you may ask me, am I bringing this up? Because Hailey Turner has brought a high steampunk, sword and sorcery, queer fantasy saga to the world. And oh my fuck. The Prince’s Poison Vow is the first book of the Infernal War series, and I can’t wait for the next one. Hailey has said that she set a pre-order for April 2023, but she hopes to move it up, and I really hope she does.

Now, when I say that this is a queer fantasy, I very much mean it. Of the 4 main couples, 2 are MM, one is FF, and the other is MF. One of the main characters is canon as bi, at the very least. No one ever says queer, gay, bi, or any of that. The various sexualities are just normal in the world. The only time the gender of the person you are with matters is if you need an heir, which does happen in two of the couples. The story is broken up into sections. The first section takes place 15-20 years prior to the rest of the book.

The world is called Maricol and it is infected with revenants. There are spores that get into people and turn them into revenants. Then there are the wardens who are able to withstand the poison lands and the spores. They guard the borders in between the cleansed lands and the poisoned lands. Maricol is broken up into different kingdoms, some ruled by kings and queens, others by emperors and empresses, and others still by a ruling body. Each country is watched over by one of the Star Gods, who are literally the gods of Maricol, and they are pretty active in the world.

OK, now that there is all this background, lets actually talk a little about the story.

We start out in chaos in Amari, which is the capital of Ashion. We meet a young Blaine who is holding a tiny baby, and trying to stay hidden while his father fights off people who are trying to kill them. The reason that the city is in flames is that assassins have been sent out after all the members of the ruling family’s bloodline, and I do mean every single member, no matter how distant. The newborn that Blaine is carrying is the unnamed last born daughter of the queen of Ashion. Blaine and his father get her to an airship where the two children are able to escape.

Then we have Alasandair, who is the middle child of the royal house. He is secreted away in a sub, and taken to be a tithe to be trained as a warden. While he is being transported, his memories and magic, called starfire, are hidden away. Alasandair dies under the river, and Soren is born.

Eimarille is the heir to the throne of Ashionen, and is 10 at the time of the Inferno. She is taken to the kingdom of Daijal, which is the kingdom with is probably behind the coup of Ashionen. She is going to be raised by the King of Daijal, and will eventually marry his son so that the two countries are combined under Daijalan rule.

Then we fast forward and get to the more current times of the story. Soren, who is now a Warden, meets and saves an Imperial Prince, Vanya. Eimarille is in a very happy relationship with her lady-in-waiting and pet assassin, Terilyn. Blaine is happily married to Honovi, who is the jarl of Clan Storm of E’ridia, a country that specializes in airships. And Caris, the baby, is still a teen, living in hiding where she was placed, and doesn’t know who she is. She’s fascinated with engineering, and is very good at it.

So, yes, you’ll see that I’m skipping everything after the beginning. That’s because it’s literally impossible to summarize. It’s all wrapped in together, full of intrigue, mystery, magic, love, duty, honor, espionage, and ruthlessness. When I say that it’s an epic saga, I’m not just yanking your tail.

The first section is several chapters, and each capter was a different POV, which did scare me, because I thought that it was going to turn into a Game of Thrones thing, but when you get into the more current times, the POV changes become fewer. Primarily, we have Blaine, Honovi, Soren, Vanya, Eimarille, Caris, and eventually Nathaniel. We do get a couple here and there from other important, but secondary, characters. And it helps that the later sections of the book tend to follow one part of the story.

This book is so worth reading, even if you don’t normally read queer books. There aren’t very many sex scenes, but there are a lot of emotion scenes in the book which will really drag you into the story. I mean it. Go get this book and read it if you have ever liked any kind of fantasy.

OK, that’s all for today. You’re probably thinking that’s way more than enough for today. Happy reading!

Cari Silverwood-Clockwork Stalker

Cari has joined the Dirty Heroes collection. This collection is made up of retellings of various stories and fairy tales. Cari took on Sherlock Holmes and gave him her particular touch in Clockwork Stalker. My husband and I really love Sherlock Holmes, so I was excited about this. In fact, while I was reading this, my husband started binging Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes series. I told him that I was reading a kinky reimagining of S.H. He asked how many times Holmes fucked Watson. LOL. My husband knows me. But nope, no Holmes and Watson fucking. Just lots of fucking. With the word clockwork in the title, it’s a pretty good tipoff that it’s got steampunk aspects, which it does. It also has some Lovecraftian/horror/paranormal kind of stuff going on, which shows up more than you might realize in steampunk stuff.

So, we start out on an airship on its way from France to England. Holmes and Watson are on the ship so that they can find a stolen wife. They are pretty sure that she is on the ship, so they are going to find her. Except that’s not what they find. What they find, or rather, what Holmes finds. He finds a nubile redhead and discovers that her name is Wilhelmina Moriarity. He knows that she’s involved in the missing woman case he’s working on, and so he leaves his card with a note, and leaves. He wakes up with no idea where he is or what has happened, but he has left himself a note that says many things, including forget about Watson and resist.

Wilhelmina Moriarity is the infamous Moriarty’s niece, but she’s not been involved in his crime syndicate. She’s been living in Russia, India, or France, with her late husband or her father. But now that her dad is dead, she’s off to London, because she should have a lot of money in the Bank of England, and she has a machine that she wants to enter in the World’s Fair. It measures a very particular kind of energy, she calls it malignant energy. Only she gets to the bank and finds out that her inheritance has been stolen, which leads to her being stuck in a shitty boarding house, then she gets a note from Sherlock Holmes, which she ignores.

OK, so Sherlock is a huge asshole a lot of the time, but that’s pretty much canon for him. If you look at every single story, movie, show, whatever, from the originals on out, he’s a conceited, know it all jackass. But everyone lets him get away with it, because he really is just that good. (And frankly? I’m not surprised that Doyle did really hate Holmes at one point.) But, Cari being Cari, she takes that assholeishness even further. Her Sherlock has been infected with this malignant energy stuff, and it has done… things to him. All the things. All the kinky, fucked up, debauched, depraved, super sexy things that he can think of. Holmes really isn’t all that into sex, if he feels the need to have it, he goes and finds a prostitute and gets his swerve on. So, wanting to tie a string around Wilhelmina’s nipples and hammer the string into the floor is a whole new thought for him.

Holmes really does go through a long journey in this story, and I like that for him. I like him much better at the end of the book. He really needed the journey, and I think that he’ll be a better detective for it.

Then we have Wilhelmina. She isn’t strictly an innocent, she has been married before, and is relatively aware of how the world works and things work in between and women, but everything that Sherlock wants is totally new to her. She kind of hates to love it and loves to hate it. She’s an extremely smart woman, and very interested in science. I think that leaves her with some blind spots. I think that she doesn’t expect things to be as chaotic as they are in real life. She wants to have a nice, ordered life and do her studies, but then things change. She has a journey to go through too, but I don’t think that her journey is near as transformative as Homes’ is. I think that her sense of self isn’t as set in granite as Holmes’ is, and changes aren’t as much a threat to her as they are to Holmes. I like that she acts as a catalyst to several things. I think that she’s just an awesome character.

Watson isn’t in this story much, but I really didn’t like him all that much anyway, so no huge loss.

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I thought it was interesting to find out the name of the person that Holmes and Wilhelmina saw at the club.

OK, that’s all for this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Cari Silverwood-The Steamworks Chronicle

Yup, it’s another Cari Silverwood post. There are so many good reasons why I read and review so many of her books. All the books are just so good. I haven’t read one yet that I didn’t like. Cari does some of the best world building I’ve ever seen, hands down. She takes all these things, both big and little, and puts them together in a way that brings you into her worlds and lets you see, smell, taste, and feel everything going on. You are wrapped up and in the books and it’s hard to get back out into the real world sometimes.

The world of Cari’s Steamworks Chronicles is an alternate Earth. The lands are the same, with the same basic ethnic groups, but the states and countries and nations are different. For example, you get the Brito-Gallic League and the Byzantine Empire. The technology, however, is totally different. It’s all steampunk. If you aren’t familiar with steampunk, it’s an alternate Earth with technology that is stuck in approximately the Victorian era. Things run by steam, coal, or early electric batteries. Instead of airplanes, you get airships, instead of helicopters, you get gyrocopters. You get clockwork animals, creations, and oh yeah, sex toys. You get the idea. In Cari’s world, you are at something similar to modern times, give or take, but with the steampunk technology.

So, the Chronicles is a boxset that contains 3 books, Iron Dominance, Lust Plague, and Steel Dominance. They are all standalones within the same world, so you don’t have to read them all to understand any one of them. However, the two Dominances are related, so you may want to read Iron before you read Steel. Not necessary, but you get more info on the characters altogether.

One word you will hear me talk about with the books is frankenstruct. A frankenstruct is a being that is made up of a whole lot of cloned human parts. If the person is just 1 clone, then they are obviously a person, right? So the theory is that if you take a lot of pieces of a lot of different clones and then put them together and make a person, then morally and ethically that being isn’t a person. At least, that’s how some of the governments in this world think. I think frankenstructs can get a bad rap and I think that making them be legally not a person or having an extermination order against them is despicable. Anyway.

Iron Dominance

Claire is a frankenstruct. She looks lovely, innocent, and oh so sexy. However, what she really is is deadly. She’s bred and trained as an assassin and can kill you in about 50 different ways. Her current “master” is a scummy scumbag named Inkvine. I mean, he’s a nasty-arse piece of work. He pretty much needs to die right after he open his mouth. He’s posing as a diplomat and she’s supposed to be his arm candy so that they can get close to an enemy named Theo and off him. At least, that was the plan, until their airship got blown up.

The next thing she knows, she’s waking up buried in wreckage and she’s being told that she is one of the few survivors of the airship, and all the others were men. Lord Theo Kevonis, her rescuer, says that she can stay on his estate while all the men get sent off. There are several reasons for this. One is that she’s hurt. Another is that the doctor told Theo that she was a frankenstruct and his government will euthanise her, so keeping her on his estate is just a good idea. Then there’s the fact that Theo is incredibly taken with Claire, and thinks that she’s probably a pleasure slave, as evidenced by the fact she was wearing a lovely evening gown when they found her.

Meanwhile, Claire is trying to keep ahold of herself around Theo. She’s told him that she’s a bodyguard. She’s told him all about frankenstructs, and she’s done everything he’s asked. The problem is that he overwhelms her. No one ever taught her how to deal with feelings or how to do relationships. And even if they had, they probably wouldn’t have taught her how to handle the kinds of domination and submission and bondage sexy games that Theo wants to play with her. All she knows is that she has serious feelings for him and she doesn’t want to be an assasin anymore, and is Theo her target and can she keep him safe?

Lust Plague

This zombie plague is not your mama’s zombie plague and you sure as hell aren’t going to see it on The Walking Dead anytime soon. That’s because the zombies don’t want to just eat your brains, they want to fuck those brains out first.

There are actually various levels of plague. Some of the zombies go straight into eating, some go straight into fucking, and some do all of the above.

Captain Kaysana Onomi and her crew on Art of War are off to find out about the plague and to see if they can find a cure, because the plague is getting worse and more and more people are succumbing. And all of a sudden, so are the people on Art of War.

Kaysana is trying to meet with the frankenstruct mercs that are a temporary part of her crew. The prevailing theory is that frankenstructs are immune to the plague. Except, whoops, that’s about to be proven wrong. As she’s leaving the gym where she was meeting all the mercs minus one, her officer and the mercs are suddenly infected by the plague. Ling becomes a risen man, which means he stays smart, and he has firey eyes, and murder and rape on his mind. Kaysana is his number one target. He and the mercs tie her to a rope climbing wall and are about to have their evil way when she gets rescued by Sten.

Sten is one of the frankenstruct mercs. He doesn’t really people well, and he normally hides in the mountains with his wolf Cadrach. When the government asks for help, he decides to go, but mostly because of Kaysana. This isn’t the first time that he’s seen her and he really feels a connection. He also thinks she’s pretty drop dead sexy, because well, she is. He was late going to the meeting, but when he finally gets there, he finds Emily, the ship’s librarian being attacked by some zombies. He rescues her and helps her to escape while he’s on his way to rescue Kaysana. He gets her off the ship, and then they have their wicked way with each other.

It may have felt good in the moment, but Kaysana has problems. He’s a frankenstruct and she can’t have any kind of relationship with a frankenstruct. First of all, she’s a military officer, secondly, she blames all frankestructs for her family’s deaths. But every time Sten touches her, she gets all fuzzy and all her thinking goes right out the window. They both like the games that he plays, but she’s not sure how to make it all fit in her head.

And can we just say that I will never, ever look at a hood ornament the same way, ever again. Out of 3 very, very hot books, that is seriously one of the hottest things in the whole series.

Steel Dominance

Dankyo is the head of security of House Kevonis. Normally he is only concerned with keep Theo safe. But the government has sent him off on a two part mission. The first part is that he’s supposed to help upgrade the security of the palace in the Byzantine Empire. The second part is that he’s supposed to keep Sophia White safe on her job.

Dankyo has only learned in the recent past that he really likes BDSM in lots of wonderful ways. He’s played with some people, but he’s never found the woman who he wants to be fully and completely his. So, he devotes all his time to making sure that House Kevonis and Theo is safe. He takes his job incredibly seriously.

Sophia White is a scholar. Her entire world is puzzles and patterns. They talk to her. She sees them in her head and something just clicks and all of a sudden the confusion makes sense and the puzzle is solved. She’s on her way to the Byzantine Empire to solve the biggest puzzle ever, the Clockwork Warrior. She has spent years and years studying it and she knows that she can learn all its secrets. Since the Tomb she needs to get to is in the palace harem, the only way she can get in is to be a slave. Dankyo’s slave, to be precise. Sophie has secrets too. She’s always fantasized about being taken by force by a man and being made to submit to him. Luckily, Dankyo is more than happy to help her with that.

All three books have serious secrets and conspiracies involved in them. Some of them you can see right out so you can try to figure out what’s going on, but then you get the hidden secrets and conspiracies that Cari all of a sudden drops in your lap and totally surprises you with. I mean, forget about coming out of left field, some of them seriously come out of another galaxy to all of a sudden hit you. Just totally amazing. There are layers and layers and layers.

I’ve said it before and I will definitely say it again. Cari is one of the best world builders out there. The details she puts in little throwaway things that you might not even realize are there and don’t have a huge impact on the story help you feel the entire world and turn it into something that you don’t just read but you experience and live. The world is lush and beautiful and textured and… All that translates into characters that are living and breathing and that you can nearly reach out and touch. They really are just that good.

Since they are a Cari Silverwood series, they are kinky as all fucking fuck. I mean, yeah. I need the vibrator from this book. There is all kinds of BDSM and non/dubcon. It’s all just so delicious and dark and erotic and sends little shivers down your spine in just the right way. Go check them out. The boxset is currently $1.99, so for less than a cup of coffee, you can get some books that will wake all the way up.

There is no spoiler section today, because this is long enough. You will just have to go experience these books on your own. Have a picture though.

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