Lord of the White Hell – Book 1 by Ginn Hale

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.

Beautifully written, Ginn Hales’ novel Lord of the White Hell was difficult to put down. There was almost a bitter sweetness in finishing that last page and knowing I’m going to have to be less of an impatient pants, that I normally am, in the wait for the next book.

The scene is deftly set by the author. The world building around this renaissance fantasy is rich with crisp, clear detailing. As a new student at the Sagrada Academy, Kiram initially struggles to find his way through the upper crust of Cadeleon society, espeically as he is Haldiim.  He finds it hard to fit in with the social mores, so very different from his own less rigid culture, but begins to make friends with some help from Javier an upperclassman and heir to the Dukedom of Rauma. Kiram begins to feel a burgeoning attraction towards his arrogant roommate and while homosexuality is an accepted part of Haldiim culture it is expressly forbidden in Cadeleon. Underlying this more human drama is the story of Javier and a strange and terrifying magical inheritance that threatens not only himself, but also his friends and Kiram.

Rich world building and storytelling is only part of this novels charm. I initially felt that the relationship between the two main characters would unfold down fairly standard lines, exploring familiar tropes. But the author did anything but, and the relationship between Kiram and Javier develops with surprising twists, turns and had great depth to it. The tension between the two is beautifully created and they’re two characters you’ll find yourself totally wrapped up in. Brilliant.

This book felt so wonderfully original, engaging and clever, I just loved it. I cannot wait for the next installment in this remarkable tale and am not really sure I can wait for September!

Originally published in 2010.

Grade A
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