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In the second half of Ginn Hale’s epic romantic fantasy, Lord of the White Hell: Book Two (Blind Eye) Kiram and Javier continue their battle against the curse that has claimed the lives of Javier’s family and has left Javier’s cousin, Fedeles, in a child-like state.
Though the plot thickens measurably in the second book, readers should not expect more of the same detailed sword fighting and intense horse racing that made up Hale’s first novel. Instead, Hale delves into Kiram’s colorful world of magic, ethnic street fairs, food, and clothing and the religious practices of the Haldiim people.
What seems like a rushed spring semester at the Sagrada Academy gives way to brilliantly detailed descriptions of Kiram’s home, family life and customs. While the first book focused mainly on Cadeleonian practices and daily life at the academy, Hale’s second novel shifts to develop Kiram’s world and Javier’s reconciliation with his sexuality.
When Kiram returns home for the summer to the open arms of his family and countless suitors, one person remains on his mind: a dark haired, toned and occasionally arrogant Cadeleonian upperclassman. And although Kiram’s family desires his every happiness, they fear he’s found an unsuitable partner in the closeted Javier.
Over the course of her two-part adventure, Hale’s character development of the two protagonists—Kiram and Javier—is astonishingly real and relatable. This is not simply a novel about gay love in the face of societal opposition and persecution. Rather, Hale sets up two worlds: one in which gay love is not only tolerated but openly accepted and viewed as a natural occurrence and one in which gay love ridiculed and its practitioners ostracized and imprisoned.
While Kiram has been raised in the former, Javier has endured the intolerance of the latter. From the moment Javier walks through the Haldiim district that Kiram calls home, he is flabbergasted by the rituals, food and openness of Kiram’s family.
Kiram and his Cadeleonian lover are allowed to live as any heterosexual couple would: they share a room and a bed, can openly express affection and even marry if they chose to. But Kiram knows that their passionate summer will come to an end with the first day of fall classes.
As a Cadeleonian and a noble, Javier risks excommunication and exile if caught with another man. Kiram’s world of respect, acceptance and love is contrasted to the Cadeleonian environment of fear, religious devotion and darkness.
This is clearly seen in Hale’s joyful description of Kiram’s Haldiim celebration of the Solstice as opposed to the Cadeleonian practice of strict prayer and abstention on that holiday. As Kiram secretly leaves bags of goodies in his friends’ rooms in celebration of the holiday, Javier and his band of Hellions devote their time to pray and penance in the Cadeleonian chapel.
While Kiram frets over the future of his relationship with Javier, the closeted Cadeleonian witnesses his first glimpses of gay relationships and open affection. Kiram’s uncle, Rafie, and his partner, Alizadeh, make quite an impression on the young Cadeleonian.
Readers receive a few delightful chapters chronicling the lives of this longtime gay couple and how the two affect Javier’s perception of gay people and gay love.
As Kiram and Javier come closer to breaking the deadly curse, they are shockingly betrayed by someone in their inner circle. Will Kiram live up to his reputation as a brilliant mechanist and brave warrior? Will Javier be freed from a curse that has ravaged his youth and tortured his cousin? Will Kiram and Javier ever live openly as lovers in peace?
Though the second half of the novel seeks to put these questions to rest in a dramatically dangerous mission to defeat the curse, the two book tale is more of an imaginative gay coming of age story set in the mid 1300s in an imaginary land.
Hale displays her creative prowess in this riveting tale of power, love and cultural clashes. Even though the setting is mythical, the story is real and resounding to any couple or individual who has struggled to live honestly in an intolerant society.
Hale’s inspiring novels are essential to those who have felt the hard blows of ignorance while trying to be who they are. This novel is a captivating and highly enjoyable read.
LORD OF THE WHITE HELL: BOOK 2
By Ginn Hale
Blind Eye Books
Paperback, 9780978986179, 348pp.