Book Review: Shadows of Asphodel (Shadows of Asphodel #1) by Karen Kincy

18401837Synopsis

She never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer.

1913. Austria-Hungary. Ardis knows better than to save a man on the battlefield. Even if he manages to be a charming bastard while bleeding out in the snow. She hasn’t survived this long as a mercenary without some common sense.

When she rescues Wendel, it isn’t because he’s devilishly handsome, but because he’s a necromancer. His touch can revive the dead, and Ardis worries he will return from the grave to hunt her down. Besides, a necromancer can be useful in this world on the brink of war. 

A gentleman of questionable morals, Wendel drops to one knee and pledges his undying loyalty to Ardis. She resists falling for him, no matter how hot the tension smolders between them. Especially when she discovers Wendel’s scars run much deeper than his skin, and it might be too late to truly save him from himself.

**I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions, as always, are my own.**

Rating: ★★★½ 

PLOT

The battle was over and Ardis was walking through the battlefield when she comes across a gravely injured man. Given his lack of uniform, i.e not a soldier or one of the rebels they were fighting, Ardis concluded that he is a gentleman.

“My name is Wendel,” he said.
Ardis squinted at him. The battlefield seemed like an odd place for introductions.

Ardis is a mercenary so her first thought was to kill him, but when she saw how badly injured he was and she decided to take him as prisoner. Her plan came to a halt when the man grabbed a dead war dog’s paw and the dog rose from the dead and attacked her.

“A necromancer?” she said.
There was something remarkably similar to fear in his eyes but he smiled. “Yes”.

Turns out that Wendel is a necromancer, someone who can wake up the dead. They don’t become alive again, of course. Think something along the lines of The Walking Dead.

Necromancers aren’t only feared, they are looked upon with disgust as well. Needless to say, Ardis’s feelings towards the man weren’t very warm.

His skin felt warm and soft enough, like any other person’s. Not like a necromancer’s. She shuddered and wiped her hand on the snow
The burning cold almost erased the feeling of having touched an abomination.

But she had heard rumors that if you killed a necromancer they will come back to life and hunt you. So she called a medic and asked him to heal Wendel. And because she saved his life, he swears fealty to her.

Ardis thinks nothing of this. She’s going to take him as prisoner then ask for a ransom. Until Wendel puts a stopper on her plans again by informing her that the people he works for will most likely kill her instead of giving her money.

Ardis had to go back to the base of the archmages (the poeple whom she works for) and since Wendel had sworn loyalty to her she might as well take him along.

But Wendel insisted on keeping secrets and with assassins waiting for them at every turn Ardis didn’t imagine that her heart is going to get included in the formula. But it did.

THOUGHTS

This book starts with a bang. The action is straight on and I was hooked from the first page. Imagine reading a book where a dog is brought back to life and attacks the MC; you just know that you are going to love it.

Kincy has done excellent world building. The world is a mixture between steampunk and fantasy and paranormal. Those three genres are my absolute favorite so I enjoyed every second of the descriptions and automatons and magic and oh god I should stop now before I go into total fangirl mode.

The interactions between Ardis and Wendel are brilliant. Even when they were fighting I had to resist the urge to smile. Kincy sure knows how to write fantabulous dialog. It sounded real and spontaneous and not forced at all.

There was this one part that really needs to be mentioned because it almost made me cry (mind you it’s not very hard to make me cry while reading a book but still 😛 )

She pried open a tin of jasmine tea and brought it to her nose, the leaves soaked in the scent of flowers. Home. Her eyes welled with tears, and she looked away. The man offered her a cup to try.

This really hit me. I live far away from my home country too and many things that I smell, eat, and see remind me of it. My eyes tear up every time. I’m tearing up right now.

I also really appreciated that Wendel actually felt fear and panic. That made him way more human to me. Yes he’s strong. Yes he’s ruthless. But he’s human as well. He wasn’t overpowered or this person who is soo in control of himself it’s not even real.

I must say I was a bit let down, though. Ardis was a mercenary but, hmm how do I say this, she wasn’t bloodthirsty??? I expected this story to have more gore and badassery from her side but it was more on the romance side. I also had a serious serious WTF moment about the Walden-Konstantin relationship. I was totally weirded out at that part.

Another thing was when Ardis said everyone told her that she had a knack for languages then she mentioned that her German was bad, and that she never mastered French, and spoke broken Romanian. That doesn’t sound like having a ‘knack for languages’.

CHARACTERS

Ardis (or lady of the flaming sword.)

Ardis is half chinese (yay for female characters of different ethnicities!) and speaks a multiple of languages (badly). She is independent and strong and doesn’t try to act like a man. She has long hair and she has nothing against having a romantic relationship unlike some other character we all know *cough* katsa *cough*. SO THANK YOU KAREN KINCY FOR THIS THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I forgot to mention this but Ardis has a sword that bursts into flames when she removes it from its scabbard. HOW COOL IS THAT????

As I said before, I wished she was a teensy weensy more badass, alas, we can’t have everything.

Wendel

Wendel is Mister I-shall-return-you-from-the-dead-so-I-can-control-you. He is also incredibly strong and swoon worthy and sarcastic and has one hell of an innocent face. Also he is shirtless a lot in the beginning so bonussss poinnnntsss. Basically, he’s my dream man. (Although I prefer that my The One has nothing to do with raising the dead thank you very much.)

Bottom Line

This book cured me from thinking that all authors believe that they have to make their female characters manly in order for them to be strong. I needed to read it to have my faith restored and now it is. *happy dance*. ……It also doen’t hurt that Wendel is a complete hotty…… 😉

Recommended to: Fans of light steampunk and fantasy and those who like their heroes to be ruthless but really adorable at the same time. 

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