Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Gate to Kandrith by Nicole Luiken

Though I always claim fantasy to be my true love when it comes to genres, it’s been a while now since I last read a pure fantasy set in a secondary world. Because of this and the promised romance aspect of this novel, I found myself highly anticipating my foray into Kandrith!

Title: Gate to Kandrith
Author: Nicole Luiken
Series: Kandrith #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Fantasy / romance
Length: 364 pages

Story: Sarathena Remillus, daughter of the newly elected Primus of the Republic of Temboria, has been given a mission: discover the secret of slave magic. Anxious to escape the corruption and treachery of the capital, Sara welcomes the chance to finally prove herself far away in Kandrith, the tiny nation of former slaves.

Accompanying her on the journey is Lance, a Kandrithan to whom Sara owes her life. Lance despises the nobility, and is determined to resist his desire for Sara, despite her attempts to entice him into divulging the secret of his magic.

Soon their travels become fraught with peril, and Sara discovers she's fallen victim to the ultimate betrayal. To end a war between two nations, she will have to make the ultimate sacrifice...

Thoughts and impressions: I have to admit that the first few pages didn’t really capture my attention very well. Some time passed between me experimenting with getting a taste of the first pages and settling down to read the rest of the book. I’m not sure why it failed to really draw me in as it was a fairly strong opening passage. It could have been to do with all the fantasy-world name dropping. I much prefer when authors go to the lengths of inventing some form of religious system for their world that bears little-to-no resemblance to any religious system in our world. This is the case here but I found that being introduced to all the names and roles of the political system as well as all of the names and roles of the religious systems right off the bat served more as a wedge between me and the book than anything else. I liked and appreciated both of them, don’t get me wrong, but I think I was just inundated with too much societal information in one go rather than being introduced to it in easy steps.

Sara is the daughter of the political leader of her land. She is to be the Child of Peace, destined to live in the neighbouring land of Kandrith, meant to keep her father from breaking the tenuous political pact that exists between the two countries. But Sara has been sent as a spy, meant to uncover the truth behind slave magic and hand its secrets over to her father. She’s travelling with the son of the current King of Kandrith – a man she’d met previously while in the throes of a drug-induced lustful stupor… and the first man she’s found herself attracted to in a long time. Of course, the attraction is mutual despite Lance’s dislike of Sara’s basic culture: one that permits her to be the owner of others’ lives – to have slaves. They call Kandrith Slaveland for a reason and, as a former slave to a particularly vicious owner, Lance has every right to shun Sara’s culture.

This book raises a number of interesting questions about slavers and slave-keeping. Can someone own slaves and also have a good moral code? Is a slave-owner inherently evil even if they treat their slaves well? How much in our lives do we take for granted – so much so that we’re blinded to what stares us in the face?

Once I’d actually got into the swing of things, I was enthralled by the book – though there were occasionally certain events that left me pondering just how believable they really were. I was easily able to overlook them as they added whole dimensions to the story and the relationships between the characters, but they did niggle at me from time to time.

I actually really enjoyed all of the various characters in the book. Other than Sara and Lance, my particular favourite was Juren. He was conniving and not very nice but he had his good sides as well. Right as of his initial introduction, he made me think of Ashur from the Spartacus series.

They’re both fairly similar characters: driven with a barbed tongue; full of sugar-coated insults and ready to slide a knife into anyone’s back! Granted, I think Juren eventually proved himself to be the bigger man than Ashur, but once the image was there, it stuck.

A lot of the story takes place journeying from one place to the next but it’s not just a physical journey over land, it’s also an emotional journey of self-discovery. Sara has to learn a lot before she can really, truly be worthy of Lance’s love. There’s give and take in everything, especially Lance’s healing magic, and really Sara has to get to the point where she’s willing to sacrifice something important to her in order to help others around her, just as Lance did. She does eventually commit a sacrifice of such magnitude that I really can’t wait for the sequel next year to see where she and Lance will go from here.

Sara’s realistions – her happiness, her distress, the way she came to terms with certain truths in such a way that allowed her to become a better person – all endeared her to me so that she became a character I could feel close to despite the yawning chasms between us. I hope they find some way of getting back what she sacrificed in the interests of others.

Style: Good but there was a tendency to use names more often than was strictly necessary, which I found distracting.

Final verdict: A very good fantasy romance! It was missing that je ne sais quoi which would have pushed it into a top rating, but it was still one that I really enjoyed. 4 stars

Extra notes: If there was any bad language in the story, it didn’t stick out to me at all. Sex is present.


  1. I like that there are lots of political issues going on, and that the world-building is entirely unique.

    Isn't it great that a fantasy book set in an entirely different world can tackle themes that pertain to our world?

    If you like fantasy I also recommend The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

  2. @Christina Fiorelli I do enjoy reading second world books that tackle issues that can be found in our world. I thought the issue of slavery was really well dealt with here.

    I've heard of the book before but don't own it (yet). I'll look into it - thanks!

  3. Hmmm, an adult fantasy romance! Interesting! I think I like the sound of this book. Fantasy is my weak spot. I don't mind the romance of a fantasy book if the story itself is pretty good. I like adult books that have a lot of politics and political conflicts. I feel like YA authors don't get this written as well when it is present in their books. But adult-book authors do it well. I am happy to say that I am going to add this to my list.
    Thanks for the review!!!

    Alyssa Susanna


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