Book Review: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
Pages: 441, mass market paperback
Source: Library

KINGDOMS WILL RISE AND FALL FOR HER…
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT

Catalia “Cat” Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods-and her homicidal mother-have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.

Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm-until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin’s fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.

For the first 100 pages or so of this book, I was on board. Sure, I thought it was a little strange that it was a fantasy world yet used Greek gods and mythology. (The world is very obviously based on Greece and Rome, but it’s not an alternate world. It’s a fantasy world based on very real countries.) And yes, the modern language that was used was a little mismatched with the setting. (Also, Hades wouldn’t have a mortal lover, much less give her Cerberus to protect her circus. Sorry, did we all forget Minthe? Is that not a thing in this world?)

I liked Cat. I liked Griffin, even. I’m all for Mary-Sues and Cat definitely ticks off most of the list — tragic past? Check. Myriad and amazing powers? Yup. Beautiful, even when scarred? You got it! She has her flaws and an interesting personality to outweigh some of that. 

But then we spent nearly 230 pages on traveling. And granted, most of it was full of character and world development, so for most of it I wasn’t bored. But was it needed? I’m not sure. It fell into the same pit as Walk on Earth a Stranger — so much time was spent traveling that it eventually felt tedious. 

And then there’s the romance. I cringed when I read Griffin described as an “ultra-alpha hero”. But when we first meet him, he actually has a personality beyond what those words brings to mind. Cat gives as good as she gets with him and they had a good dynamic (if not one I, personally, care for. Bantering/bickering couples tend to bore me because it’s a lazy way for the author to shoe in some supposed chemistry between characters. That wasn’t so much a problem here… well, not for most of it.) So hey, he’s a good guy, and Cat tends to best him most of the time. I was fine.

And then. Oh boy, and then. The bantering/bickering dynamic falls into the pit of Cat constantly refusing Griffin’s advances and expressing disgust at the thought of kissing him. But oh, she’s just kidding! Her internal monologue tells us how very much she does want him, and Griffin, of course, totally knows this. He tells her that he knows she wants him, ignoring her protests, and by the time I stopped reading, pushing her up against walls and kissing her and touching her even as she’s saying “no.” But he can read her body language, doncha know, so he knows she’s into it.

Gag. This all happens while Cat is still his prisoner, of course, as she repeatedly refuses his offers to join “Beta Team”. Even if he’s calling her a companion, Cat doesn’t think of herself as one. The power dynamic is completely out of whack. For all their verbal sparring (some of it crossing into abusive territory in my opinion) the power dynamic was fine… but once it crossed the line into physical attacks, the bad taste in my mouth got worse. Cat can’t give consent. Period. Griffin kidnapped her and held her against her will. Until Cat has the power to leave of her own free will, Griffin is assaulting her

Then, of course, there’s a romantic rival. And of course, she immediately attacks Cat, saying that Cat is sleeping with the entire “Beta Team” (Griffin and his companions). They physically fight twice in both of the rival’s appearances. The other women in the book don’t fare any better — Cat’s mother is a psychopath bordering on cartoon villainy, and Griffin’s sisters are forgettable. Cat shows such disdain for poor Egeria who, while a little naive, has done nothing to earn it. Jocasta may end up being Cat’s friend, but I didn’t bother reading long enough to find out.

Obviously I’m in the minority on this one. Lots of people loved it. But these problems were just insurmountable for me, after an already rocky interest. I was fully prepared to give it three stars until we got to the girl hate, slut-shaming, and sexual assault.

I won’t be continuing the series.

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