The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga #1
Also in this series: The Blacksmith Queen
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
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When a prophesy brings war to the Land of the Black Hills, Keeley Smythe must join forces with a clan of mountain warriors who are really centaurs in a thrilling new fantasy romance series from New York Times bestselling author G.A. Aiken. The Old King Is Dead With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals. Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …
I have to start this review with two points of context. First, I FREAKING LOVE THIS BOOK. I enjoy everything Shelly Laurenston/GA Aiken writes, and I particularly love this book. I just wanted to lay that out at the start of this review because there will be some squee. Second, while it pains me to say it, I would not call this book a romance. There is a satisfying, HEA romance storyline in it, and it’s a lovely one, but the romance is only a small part of the plot. Therefore, it’s not a romance, and if you go in expecting that you may be disappointed. That said, the book is so good, and I am all in on this world and these characters.
It’s hard to summarize this book without spoilers, so I’ll just let the cover copy do that. What I can talk about, however, is the main character Keeley Smythe. I love her! She is a blacksmith who runs her own shop, and she is capable AF. The opening scene, where she kicks the asses of a whole group of baddies in order to save a defenseless young man, just sucks you right in and shows you what kind of person she is. She is strong, she is fearless, and she is by and large very cheerful. She is also incredibly devoted to her family, and it was so great to see. Basically most of what she has done in life has been to protect and serve her family, but she isn’t resentful and doesn’t play the martyr. She does it because it needs doing–she is a woman who quite simply gets shit done. Aiken’s heroines are pretty much all capable and strong, however. What sets Keeley apart is that she’s really…nice. She loves the people around her despite their obvious faults and despite, in some cases, them being seemingly undeserving of her love. I love her for it.
The rest of the characters in the book are also amazing, particularly Keeley’s family. One thing I love about Aiken’s characters is that they have faults but are still deserving of their own happiness. Keeley’s family isn’t perfect, but they are ALWAYS interesting. There are so many conflicting personalities and agendas, and you get the sense that this book only revealed the tip of the iceberg of what’s really going on. I particularly loved the dynamic between Keeley and her sister Gemma. I am definitely hoping to hear more of Gemma’s story in the future! This book is also set in the same universe at the Dragon Kin books. We’ve also heard allusions to the queen we know is Annwyl, and hopefully we’ll get even more crossover later. (Hoo boy I’d love to get a scene of Keeley and Annwyl together!)
As for the romance, it may be small but it’s cute. Caid is taciturn and grumpy, but his grumpiness is no match for Keeley’s exuberance and kindness. It was fun to see her grow on him until she had wormed her way right into his heart. They were a great match, and I could see how his support would be so valuable for Keeley going forward. While I would have loved to see more page time for the romance, even my “romance or GTFO” heart was satisfied enough at the end of this book.
I know the small amount of romance will disappoint some, and as usual Aiken’s campy, violent fairy tale style is not for everyone. I, however, loved this book and I just want more. I want more of seeing Keeley come into her own, I want more story for the rest of Keeley’s family, and I want more of this world.
Grade: 4.75 out of 5.