It's there that he meets Javier Tornesal, Duke of Rauma, the leader of a group who call themselves The Hellions. But Javier is no ordinary student. He wields a power known as the White Hell, and his family line is pursued by a curse that cannot be beaten. Kiram is drawn to Javier but a relationship between them is forbidden by Cadeleonian law. However, there are some things that are worth the risk.
I really like the way that Ginn Hale writes. Her worldbuilding is particularly beautiful, she has a way of making people and places come alive on the page. And I think she balances very well, the small touches of humour against other serious or saddening situations.
Kiram is interesting as a protagonist. He's seventeen years old, so especially at the beginning of the story, he still reads as a little young, a little immature, he's quite rigid in his beliefs.
"So long as he wasn't insane or sick with black pox I wouldn't be afraid to sleep in a room with any man," Kiram replied. It wasn't entirely true - certainly he wouldn't want to sleep in a room with a thief or murderer or, honestly, a man who stank terribly..."He has these statements of certainty which he then is almost immediately qualifying in his own head.
It's very interesting to see how his character grows over the course of the book, how he moves from the certainty of innocence towards experience. I think he still has very strong beliefs but comes to see that there has to be some flexibility.
Javier on the other hand is almost a force of nature. A very nice contrast to the more reserved Kiram. Kiram tells it like it is, whilst Javier I think is a little more manipulative and he can get under Kiram's skin.
Kiram tried to sound firm despite his embarrassment. "I'm not one of the whores at the Goldenrod whose body you can buy with a few pennies."If Javier tells the truth it might not be the whole truth. And he can cut with his words.
"No, you charge much more and put out far less."
I think one of the main reasons the book works so well is because Kiram and Javier don't exist in a vaccuum. The world feels real because all the characters feel like real people. Kiram's family - his uncle Rafie and his uncle's partner Alizadeh who represent the Haldiim way of life that Kiram has kind of become separated from. (I would love to read about their early experiences, I think there are lots of stories there).
Kiram's best friend Nestor - who might not be the best Cadeleonian student at the Academy, but he is a good and loyal friend to Kiram. The Hellions who hang about with Javier, and Javier's cousin Fedeles who suffers under the family curse. The relationship between Javier and Kiram develops with these internal pressures, both Kiram and Javier are cautious about the relationship in their own way and for their own reasons. Whilst Javier can be demonstrative when the two of them are alone, when they are out in public he cannot do that. But there are also external pressures, from society, family and friends. And Book One ends with these pressures having reached an almost inevitable crisis point. So I highly recommend, that, like me, you have Book 2 ready to go.
If I had any complaints it would be that in a few places the editing slips up a little. But that is such a minor complaint in the face of the overall story being so good.
I very much look forward to reading what Ginn Hale writes next, whether that's more from the world of Wicked Gentlemen or from the world of the White Hell.