“A cage is a cage, no matter how gilded.”
I can’t say I loved this book, but, neither can I say I hated it. If I were asked to describe Gild by Raven Kennedy in ten words or less, I would say “BDSM Billionaire Romance wrapped loosely in fantasy.” Let me start by focusing on what I thoroughly enjoyed about this book.
Kennedy does an excellent job building the world of Orea and introducing readers to the power structures within. She delivers magic abilities, fantastic beasts, snow pirates, pulse-racing plot twists, taut tensions, heart-breaking humanity, and wretched villains. Her prose is often breathtakingly beautiful.
Auren is the favored “saddle,” (concubine for those with gentler constitutions) of King Midas, the ruler of Sixth Kingdom. He rescued her from poverty, and she became his lover before he married Sixth Kingdom’s magic-less princess and ascended to the throne by dint of his magical golden touch. Only those with power can rule. She is the only person he has ever “gold-touched,” and he keeps her locked away in a gilded cage. She is precious and safe and bored out of her mind. Midas may have loved her once, but his love has twisted into a love of novelty.
King Midas is as duplicitous as the Greek mythologies suggest. King Fulke of Fifth Kingdom is his gullible ally in a plot to attack Fourth Kingdom, the domain of King Rot. Midas sends orders for his harem of “saddles”, including Auren, to join him in Fifth Kingdom. Their journey is the first time Auren has been outside in more than ten years. She takes every opportunity to escape the confines of her gilded carriage and breathe freely, befriending one of her guards along the way. When the party is hijacked by the Red Raids, Auren realizes and regrets the danger her status as “Midas’ Favored” has placed upon the others in the caravan. Her despair deepens as she discovers there may have been a spy in the entourage; a spy willing to sell the lot of them to King Rot’s fae warrior, Commander Rip. So far, so good!
Now, for what surprised me most about this book. Perhaps I should have read the synopsis more closely, taken it more seriously, something. I love a good sex scene. While there is a lot of sex in Gild, not much of it is very good. I did not anticipate a full-on, graphically described orgy within the first ten pages. I still wonder why this was entirely necessary. I don’t mind coarse language (full disclosure: my own language is often very coarse). However, in a work of fantasy, I was unprepared for modern speech patterns and shock-factor slurs. They almost seem gratuitous and unnecessary.
I kept waiting for Auren to NOT be the damsel-in-distress. I kept wanting her to claim her own agency. I kept wanting her to be more than the plaything of a childish king. I wanted her to recognize her own value. I needed her to not acquiesce so readily. I kept waiting for Midas to redeem himself. I needed him to not be an ass. I don’t regret reading Gild, but I probably won’t be reading further into this series. I didn’t care about the characters enough.
Whitney Reinhart is a reader, writer, sometimes editor/coach currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing because she believes every one has at least one story to tell. She lives (for now) in eastern Arkansas with the world’s smartest man and two Siberian Huskies posing as study buddies. Her work can be found on PocketFiction.co.uk and Fleas on the Dog. .