The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley, Narrated by Tillie Hooper #AudioReview

The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley, Narrated by Tillie Hooper #AudioReviewThe Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley

Narrator: Tillie Hooper
Series: #2 Fantasyland
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Published by Audible Studios on June 21, 2016
Length: 17 hours 1 minute
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      four-flames

Knocked on my can in the first chapter and it happened a few more times- what can I say, I’m a lightweight.  But really, it was my awe at how the author took a huge risk by putting a seering, controversial scene right in the beginning and trusted that her readers would take a gamble and stay with it to see the incredible, gritty harsh fantasy world journey she has placed her heroine on as amazing and a situation in which the heroine can show strength, passion and understanding.  The journey is rough and hard, but the heroine stumbles and finds her way with me cheering her heartily on as she goes.  And that hero, whew boy, he is just straight up powerful- passionate fire, sex and danger.

This is book two in the Fantasyland series.  It is a story that begins parallel to the first one, but it would do just fine as a standalone since the hints to its sister story are minuscule and only a reader of the first book would know what they meant.

Circe wakes up in some sort of pen with other women and surrounded by rough, lusty men waiting for the festivities to begin.  Another imprisoned woman who actually speaks her language shares that this is the annual Korwahk wife hunt.  The Suh Tunak (Horde of warriors) are gifted a woman for their service in this way.  Circe figures out fast that this isn’t just a nightmare that she will wake up from back in her bed in Seattle, but she has somehow entered another world- a brutal, terrifying one.  She has caught the eye of the Dak (King of the Horde and Korwahk) and he is a fiercesome man who makes everyone tremble.

Terrified, Circe runs for her life.  Warriors rush to capture her as she is the only golden haired woman.  But as hard as she runs and fights, the Dak catches her and she is violated by her new ‘husband’.  Her early days are horrific and it is heartwrenching being with a brutal savage who has different ways and another language, but then she encounters a woman from another nation who speaks her language.

Circe learns the ways of the Korwahk and her new husband.  She ponders her situation and wonders about ever going home even as she slowly adapts and falls for her new situation and Lahn, her husband.  He is brutal and savage, but he also has another side that she only is privileged to see.  He is who and what he is and she eventually isn’t sure that their differences can ever be overcome and that is besides the attacks from within and beyond, betrayal, and misunderstandings bring them to the brink.

This author has the amazing ability to irritate and antagonize me and keep me riveted and breathless all in the same book.  It’s happened more than once and I can see that this strange fixation I have is a fulsome compliment to the author.  I find myself amazed more often than I am the other and that is what brings me back for more.

The world of these stories is no more remarkable than the usual fantasy settings, but they are still fun and entertaining- magic, talking creatures, fantasy creatures, and the compelling characters and plots.  There is attention to details that shows a colorful diversity.  The first story was set in a country that reminded me of Norse and northern European culture while this one took the story to the south lands for desert tribal culture.  There is another language made up by the author and the diversity of difference even amongst the fantasy world races that I loved.

The pacing was not smooth.  It was filled with exciting and intense scenes that moved swiftly or slowed to hold the reader’s breath, but there were also the dragging scenes of everyday life.  Both were necessary as they helped advance the heroine’s life and integration into the world of the Horde.

Now, the elephant in the room.  A rape occurs in the beginning of the story and there are other scenes that are abusive and violent.  It is particularly an assault on the senses because it is so very early in the story before a reader makes deeper connections.  Thus, I don’t think this book will be for everyone.  I respect that a marauder-slave culture will be a situation that pushes too hard for some.    The author writes about a savage race of people and she doesn’t pull punches and try to romanticize it.  I will say that everything has a purpose and in that culture the rape and violence is not morally wrong to them so it all feels organic in this story.  Circe, the character who comes from our world, is appalled and takes on the arduous task of change from within.

As to my love-hate thing about the author’s writing, I’m referring to writing style and her heroines.  The books are wordy and overly angsty.  I find the heroines to be the source of this.  Circe is no exception.  These heroines are girly girls (not meant as a bad thing just not my thing) so they get giddy over clothes and make-up, shopping, and girl gatherings.  Circe gets stuck in her head and has over-blown emotions and temperament which makes her rush in without thought, react without thought, and you get the idea.  The constant buzz of chatter in her head and in her dialogue is tiring.    But, that said, this same heroine that drives me up the wall is also one I can respect her flaws and appreciate her strong indomitable nature that won’t back down to injustice or cruelty.  Circe sees wrongs and seeks to change them.  And when she screws up, she owns it.  Okay, she needs a few thumps from her friends to get her head out of the emotional loop it’s in.

The love affair in this one was the strongest part of the story and left me oh so very satisfied.  Lahn is an alpha among alphas.  He has grown up hard and fast in this warrior nation.  He is strong and a natural leader and protector, but it takes Circe to teach him about gentleness and loving kindness.  Which it was beautiful when he learned after each difficult struggle.  He is rough on Circe and breaks her heart, but he figures it out and moves heaven and earth to make it up to her.  Circe also learns to slowly appreciate, respect and accept completely the man before her.  He revolts her at first and then she really starts to see him and his more noble traits which had her swooning and me, too.  Together they are combustible.  Two strong-willed people who come together and forge a dynasty.

I didn’t mention before, but this was an audio encounter for me.  Again, I was enthralled by the talent voice of Tillie Hooper.  She is so in tune to tone, emotions, characters, and the pacing of the story.  Her male voices can get raspy, but overall, she nails it.  This a long story and large diverse casts of characters with a range of emotions and pacing, but she handled it like a champ.

So, in summary, I am more enchanted than ever with the Fantasyland series.  Only this author can wow me with a book even if the heroine isn’t to my taste.  Fantastic world, plot, and characters.  I definitely want to continue with the series and recommend this book to those who like a gritty, brutal world where a spirited heroine can tame her savage warrior.

My thanks to Audible.com for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #309 FR
Audio #35

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Wow! This sounds like a great read. After crying my heart out for All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, I think this story would cheer me up. I’ll be checking it out, ayeii!

    • Oh, this is light years different from All the Bright Places, Vanessa. Hope you enjoy it if you get the chance.

  • oooo, I don’t think I could read this. Her “husband” rapes her and she falls for him? Is that what happens? Because I’m not okay with that. But, I am glad that you did enjoy this.

    • Yep, that’s what happens. In their culture, they don’t see it as rape when a woman in the wife hunt is picked by one of the warriors. They consider it a privilege. But yeah, no prettying up what happens in that first chapter. I was warned about it by another reader so I was ready, but it was still rough to listen to so I get that you don’t want to go there, Quinn. 🙂

  • Debbie Haupt

    wow you have me intrigued Sophia Rose, hmmm something to think about

    • Ha! Yeah, not a typical romance story, Debbie. It has the shock and awe approach.

  • that is awesome that you found a series you feel so good about, there is so much going on in this world o.o

    • Yes, I was excited after reading the first one and look forward to the others in the series. Sounds like they are each something different.

  • I have this one, and the first book, queued up in my to be listened to pile now I know what to expect with the opening. I’m also very eager to give these one a start now!

    • Yeah, I read Melanie’s review for this one just after I listened to book one so I knew book two would open on a doozy of a scene. Hope you like them, Angela!

  • I think I’ll give this one a pass. I might have been able to read a book like this a few years ago but not anymore.

    • Yeah, there are seasons in a reader’s life and sometimes interests move on that’s why I wanted to give everyone a heads up on this one. If the series overall sounds good, I think you could get away with skipping around to the particular storylines that interest you, Mary.

  • I really want to read this author. I see her name everywhere and everyone seems to really like her work. This one sounds intense. It isn’t often that a book starts out with such a disturbing scene. It could be tough to listen to in a lot of cases. Great review!

    • I discovered her books through one of those Amazon emails ‘if you liked this’ type of things. I hadn’t heard of her. After that, I saw them everywhere, too. Haha!

      Oh, other than one of her series, this was the most intense and disturbing books I’ve read by her. It was harder to actually listen to the troubling scenes than when I’ve read that sort of thing before, but mostly because it hit my emotions harder.

      Thanks, Carole!

  • This series is high on my must-read list! Hopefully I will get to the first book soon.

    • I was so glad to stumble on it as a review opportunity. I’ve read many of her other books, but didn’t know about this series.

      Yes, hope you get to it, Christy!

  • I would expected the darker more gritter aspects in this world, so the elephant makes sense. I am hoping to listen to these.

    • Yes, the elephant makes sense when it is settled into the rest of the worldbuilding. Oh good! I thought the narrator was a good match for these stories and made them even better.

  • You know, I still have not read one of her books, and I don’t know why. I’ve heard great things about this particular series. Lovely review!

    • I’ve got a few authors and books like that- eventually, right Grace? 😉

      Thanks!

  • Ahh I still need to try her out. That does sound like one that would be rough for some readers. Quite the risk but awesome she was able to keep you through it all.

    • Once in a while, a risk really needs to be taken b/c it is where the story is really going. The world building, setting, and characters would feel lesser versions of themselves if she hadn’t gone there with the society and people of this race. But yeah, tough to get it in my face right at the start.

      Her writing is so different that I’m always curious when someone first tries her stuff. My reaction has been mixed from the beginning. I love certain aspects and detest others, but there is something special that keeps me coming back for more. 🙂

      • That’s honestly why I’ve held off on reading them. She’s a nice lady and I’m so nervous hers won’t work for me. I have friends who just LOVE them down to their toes and I’m like but…but what if I don’t?!! So I hold off a little longer. lol

        • I’d love to reassure you, but based on my own mixed reaction almost every time (her Chaos MC books seem to work best for me), I do get your hesitancy.

  • That does sound like quite the brutal and hard start of a book with a rape scene so early and I think the author really took a risk with that. Although I am not sure if this is a series for me, I can also appreciate how the author doesn’t try to romanticize these people and show their way of life.

    This reminds me a bit of a star trek episode we recently watched, which had a bit of similar plot line with the weird culture and how to react to it. They encounter an alien species where some of the members are basically treated like less than the others, but it’s normal for them and their culture and the episode really addressed the point of if they should judge these people. try to reform them or accept this as part of their culture. I thought it was really interesting.

    It sounds like this book has a bit of a similar feel/ message with how the violence and rape isn’t morally wrong for them and then for the reader to decide how to feel about it. The romance does sound very well done. Although that’s too bad you didn’t fully like the writing style and the female main character. Great review!

    • That is a good comparison, Lola. It is exactly the point I was trying to bring out about the situation and world that was happening in this story. This race has traditions and laws and ways of life that are so foreign to us that it feels wrong to the outsiders, but those from the culture only see normal.

      I do have to accept a love/dislike thing with her books each time I read. Most of the time when I don’t like aspects of a writing style, I give up and move on, but I can’t seem to do it with her writing b/c there are also strong aspects that I love. What I’ve done is make sure I don’t read her books close together which helps me be more accepting and anticipatory.