Kingdom of Exiles is a romantic fantasy, with a strong emphasis on the romance aspect. As such, much of the story fell into the usual romance cliches of alpha male, angsty longing, overidealized characterizations, and a LOT of tell with very little show. Much of the plot was clearly telegraphed but author Martineau left enough of a main arc (for future volumes) within the complete secondary arc to make readers want more. Although not a wholly satisfying read, the critters do make up for a lot of the lack of charm in the protagonists (and upstage most of the book in the process).
Story: Leena is a disgraced beast charmer with a price on her head. On the run and desperate, she makes a deal with the assassins sent to terminate her: she’ll give each of the team a beast friend in exchange for not completing the contract to kill her. In the process, she falls in love with alpha hunky angsty leader Noc.
Since I assume readers can’t come to love murderous assassins, this supposedly lethal group is just a bunch of big hearted ‘brothers’ who take her under their wing. Along the way, Leena uses her Beast Charmer skills to coach magical creatures out of the Beast Realm to bond with each of the assassins, according to their nature. These scenes were the highlight of the book since the rest of the plot amounted to both main characters mooning over each other as fate forces them to be a part. Noc, of course, has a curse on him that kills those he loves and Leena is reeling after a betrayal by someone she loved and trusted. Worry not, instaluv always finds a way.
The assassin characters were somewhat cliche stereotypes: serious guy, womanizer/playful guy, the big lug with a heart of gold. All lead by Noc, who just wants to protect his ‘family’ and do the right thing. By the end of the book, you’d swear little birdies came in and groomed their hair every morning (a la Cinderella), they were so pure. The antagonist was so over-the-top that he really should have been written so he had a mustache to twirl while he recounted his nefarious plans in a patronizing monologue. Leena, as with most romance heroines, spends most of her time being unpleasant and rude, to show that she has ‘spirit.’
The book is a quick and easy read and should greatly please romance fans, especially those who love the ubiquitous urban fantasy romances that abound right now. This first book has a complete arc but enough of the world building is left unexplained to fill in future volumes. reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.