When your bestie and one of your favorite authors sing the praises of a book loudly, you have to listen. That’s exactly why I had to sign up for an ARC of A Rival Most Vial by R. K. Ashwick. For a quick synopsis of the plot, you can read Mandy’s review of the book here.
Though set in a fantasy world, the world-building is easy to follow because it feels so much like the real world and that aides in how cozy this book is to read. It felt so cozy at times that I found the most unrealistic thing about the book wasn’t the fantasy creatures like elves and orcs, but the fact that there were no instances of hatred based on who a person was.
Speaking of who people are, this book had LGBTQIA+ representation out the wazoo. From the gay and bisexual main characters to the non-binary and asexual side characters, the full rainbow was on display throughout and I loved every second of it. R. K. was able to weave these details into the story so flawlessly that it never felt like anyone needed to “come out” even though Eli was a newcomer to the Scar. Each character just got to be exactly who they were.
A new trope title that I desperately hope catches on is “idiots-to-lovers” (thank you Lana Ferguson!) because so much of the time we get some real idiot main characters and that makes me love them even more. We had a bit of that with Ambrose and Eli in this story. I spent so much of my time yelling at them to wake up and realize their feelings, but R. K. navigated this slow burn in a way that didn’t make me want to throw my Kindle across the room. Even though it took a bit for our idiots to figure things out, it never felt like it took a bit and, for that, I thank R. K. a bunch (I have been known to whine about a slow burn, but this is definitely not one of those instances!)
The found family in this story felt like such a warm hug. They were always there for each other regardless of whether the person wanted them to be or not. The heart of a good story relies on good side characters and these were some of the best. I found myself itching for more from the rest of the found family (perhaps a book for each in the future?)
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well!