Book Review: King of Battle and Blood (Adrian x Isolde #1) by Scarlett St. Clair

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy Erotica
Publisher: Bloom Books
Publication Date: November 30th, 2021
Pages: 368, trade paperback
Source: Library

Isolde de Lara considers her wedding day her death day. To end a years-long war, she is to marry vampire king, Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, and kill him. ⠀

But her assassination attempt is thwarted and Adrian threatens that if Isolde tries kill him again, he will raise her as the undead. Faced with the possibility of becoming the thing she hates most, Isolde seeks other ways to defy him and survive the brutal vampire court. ⠀

Except it isn’t the court she fears most—it’s Adrain. Despite their undeniable chemistry, she wonders why the king——fierce, savage, merciless—chose her as consort. ⠀

The answer will shatter her world.

NOTE: I SPOIL EVERYTHING IN THIS REVIEW. I pretty much couldn’t in order to get to why some stuff bugged me. Proceed with caution!

Okay. Okay, to be totally fair, this is a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I don’t read erotica; I’ve tried in the past, and it just makes my little ace self uncomfortable because I can’t connect to why the characters would want to jump right into bed with each other. It makes no sense to me and authors don’t really try to convince me that that’s what should happen.

Still, the premise sounded… interesting. And I’ve heard good things about St. Clair’s Hades & Persephone series. I figured, why not?

But I’m sorry, y’all. I couldn’t take it seriously. I tried, I really did, but honestly my enjoyment of the book increased once I realized I couldn’t take it seriously. I was literally the Ryan Gosling gif I used above at some parts of the book.

St. Clair is a good writer, actually, when it comes to the technical aspect of things. I enjoyed her fight scenes and I was able to follow them well, which is a thing I struggle with sometimes in books. Isolde’s voice is distinct and her character is interesting, if occasionally holding the Idiot Ball because either the plot demands it or St. Clair wanted to get to the sex. Literally, at one point, Isolde is attacked by the Big Bad and, instead of being like “holy shit I just got attacked by the woman my husband has been looking for, I better go tell him what happened and everything she said because she said some weird ass shit” they have sex. And then she makes a little mention of what the Big Bad might have said, and when pressed for more, St. Clair takes the easy way out and has Isolde go, “Oh, I can’t really remember what she said.” Girl. C’mon. 

For instance, once Isolde is in the kingdom of vampires, her first priority should have been to begin reading up on the history of her new kingdom and going to court to observe and learn the dynamics at play. She does go to court… where Adrian immediately tells her that she’ll have to make decisions already. And then she kills a dude there, her first time out. This is normalized in the story. Honestly, when the kingdom is attacked by Adrian’s own people, I was kind of like, “Well, y’all are killing them left and right and ruling by brute force with occasional fairness. What did you expect?” You can’t rule a kingdom, even a kingdom of vampires, by killing anyone who looks at you funny. Courtly politics and intrigue and the roles royal women played in their worlds are very clearly not St. Clair’s forte.

But anyway, who cares about that? Let’s have another sex scene!

Isolde does eventually get off her ass and do, you know, her job, but it’s late in the game. So, after a few dozen pages of sex–both between Adrian and Isolde and Isolde just walking in on people having sex or people having sex out in the open where anyone can see them–the rest of the plot arrives, which I had guessed before the 50% point. Isolde is, in fact, the reincarnation of Adrian’s lover from before he was turned into a vampire, which is why she feels drawn to him immediately and can’t get enough of having sex with him. This is not at all examined in the story. She’s just like, “Oh, I had a past life where I died horrifically, and now the guy I loved in said past life is here and my husband, isn’t that grand?” There’s no allowing Isolde to process this at all. I dunno, y’all, I would have been a little bit more “WTF” but maybe that’s just me! Who cares about the implications and nuances of this reveal when we could have another sex scene or two?

It sounds like I hated this book, but I really didn’t. In fact, when the story wasn’t being twisted in order for St. Clair to shove in sex scenes, I liked what I read. I enjoyed her characters, though Adrian got on my nerves occasionally. The little world-building we get was solid enough. I appreciated that St. Clair made a fantasy world where queerness is normalized.

But like I said: My little ace self couldn’t take it seriously after a certain point. The sex scenes were clearly the most important thing to St. Clair here, and I get it, but maybe try not to make it so obvious?

I guess, in the end, I’ll always prefer romance novels that generally have feelings and chemistry and a bit of buildup before they get to the sex. That’s what makes sense to me.

Also, Adrian seemed to walk around with a near-constant boner. It must be his vampire abilities that keep him from passing out all the time from the lack of blood to the head on his shoulders.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: King of Battle and Blood (Adrian x Isolde #1) by Scarlett St. Clair

  1. I went through your posts like a weirdo and I LOVE the concept of this blog. I myself am a fellow crazy cat lady and I love what you guys are doing. it’s awesome.

    Like

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