Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M Martineau

Fans of adult fantasy (and mature YA readers) will enjoy Kingdom of Exiles by author Maxym M Martineau. Read on for more about this book which is the first of The Beast Charmer trilogy. Thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions and overuse of the passive voice are my own.

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M MartineauKingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau
on June 25, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 448
Buy on Amazon
Buy from your local independent bookstore via IndieBound
Goodreads
four-stars

Assassin's Creed meets Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in this gripping, epic fantasy romance trilogy.

My heart wasn't part of the deal when I bargained for my life, But assassins so rarely keep their word.

Exiled Charmer Leena Edenfrell is running out of time. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts-an offense punishable by death-and now there's a price on her head. With the realm's most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes Noc an offer he can't refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.

Plagued by a curse that kills everyone he loves, Noc agrees to Leena's terms in hopes of finding a cure. Never mind that the dark magic binding the assassin's oath will eventually force him to choose between Leena's continued survival...and his own.

The Beast Charmer Series: Kingdom of Exiles The Frozen Prince (coming early 2020)The Shattered Crown (coming late 2020)

My Review

The blurb for Kingdom of Exiles was appealing, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you are looking for an action-packed story with an original concept, a strong female lead character, incredible beasties, an imaginatively and well-developed world, interesting and likable characters (even if you don’t want to like them), this book is for you. The writing is smart, and although it is a long book, the pacing was quick (for the most part).

Both the cover, the description, and the writing had the feel of a well-executed YA book, but this is definitely an adult fantasy romance. I think it would appeal to YA readers but there are a few racy bits that give pause. (More on that later.)

The story is told from alternating points of view: Leena and Noc. Leena, is a beast charmer; Noc, the guild master of Cruor, who are assassins that have a contract on her life. When the assassins take on a contract they make an oath it will be completed – or the contract holder will die. Yes, you guessed it – there is a contract out for Leena. This, of course, sets up the perfect conflict as a slow-burn, forbidden kind of romance develops between the Leena and Noc.

The characters are well developed, but I particularly enjoyed the author’s development of the Cruor. One would expect them to be hard and soulless, but the author has taken an interesting approach with their characters. As they were all once regular people (before being raised from death to be Cruor) they retain their original personalities. Kost is the most serious and threatening, Calem is a straight up flirt, Ozias is thoughtful and shy. No doubt, they are all equally deadly at the same time. (While both genders comprise the Cruor guild, the main group who travel with Noc on this adventure are men.)

Noc has secrets from his past life, one of them tied to a curse he has been given. It causes him to go from hot to cold where his draw to Leena is concerned and definitely adds to the tension. Who he was before he was raised was hinted at and will hopefully be revealed in the sequel.

One of the underlying themes of the book is trust. Noc makes a deal with Leena, but he has ulterior motives – but can she trust him? Leena has her own motive for taking the deal but doesn’t know of the Cruor oath. Leena’s trust was broken once already when she was exiled, so trust does not come easily.

The beasts in this book are fantastic, imaginative and amazing, and come in all shapes and forms. (I would love to know the process that Martineau used in creating them.) There are different classes of beasts (which sounds a bit like Pokemon, to be honest). They live in a different realm, and once charmed are linked with said charmer. There are beasts clever, sweet, and terrifying, and the process for charming them is magical in itself. I look forward to discovering more beasts in future books in this series! (This is the first of a three-part series.)

This book has plenty of action, and it all involves the use of beasts. (This surprised me as Charmers are protective of their creatures.)

The ending was action-packed and set up the next book nicely. In all honesty, I’m not a fan of cliffhangers. This book had a bit of a cliffhanger, with plenty of questions left to be resolved. I’m looking forward to seeing more beasts, more questions answered and more of all the players in the sequel.

Now, for the niggles.

This book is being described as Fantastic Beasts meets Assassin’s Creed, which, admittedly, is marketing genius, but not necessarily a fair comparison. There ARE beasts aplenty, it’s true (and they are fantastical) and yes, there are assassins, but for me, that’s where the resemblance ends.

The comparison does the story an incredible disservice because it stands on its own legs with a very original concept.

My other issue was the sex scenes, which ARE steamy. While I’m fine with steamy, they are also graphic.   (Please, dear authors, I’m happy if you never use the word “crease” in a sex scene again.) In fairness, I genuinely thought this was YA until I reached the first sex scene, so it clearly caught me off guard. (Also: I just prefer a more subtle approach to these scenes and having more left to the imagination. That’s on me.)

Neither of these would be enough to deter me from this book, though (and if it’s not your thing, you’re forewarned and you can skim).

This was a highly entertaining tale and an excellent start to a trilogy. I look forward to The Frozen Prince (coming early 2020) and The Shattered Crown (coming late 2020).

Interested?

You can preorder Kingdom of Exiles on Amazon by clicking here.

Or – you can find Kingdom of Exiles at your nearest Indie bookstore via Indiebound. Click here.

Other fun stuff:

Sourcebooks Casablanca is running a cool giveaway for Kingdom of Exiles themed goodies, including a book!
Enter to win the Kingdom of Exiles Prize Pack!

Two factions in Kingdom of Exiles are the beast Charmers and the Cruors, the assassins. Are you a Charmer or a Cruor? Go to the Romance Reads blog to take the quiz!

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