Book Review: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (Scarlet & the White Wolf Book 1) by Kirby Crow

Scarlet makes his living and helps support his family as a pedlar, so, when a tribe of bandits imposes a toll on the road Scarlet needs to take in order to leave and the chieftain, Liall, charges him affection rather than money or wares, it poses a problem for Scarlet. Scarlet continues to invent new ways to try and sneak past, much to Liall's amusement, until it reaches the breaking point and things change between them.

Book Cover - The Pedlar and the Bandit King by Kirby Crow
Title: The Pedlar and the Bandit King
Book Number: Book 1 of TBA
Pages: 221
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


*I received an ecopy of this book from the author. This has not influenced my review.*

This was a very character-focused book with a slow pace and not a whole lot to the plot, but it was a good start to a series that I have most definitely been enjoying so far.

Both Scarlet and Liall were unique and interesting enough to keep my attention. Scarlet was feisty and stubborn (I loved how he stood up to Liall) but also kind of lost and still struggling to accept his sexuality. Liall was a bit more of a mystery, but he was clearly lonely and regretful. He was also imperfect but showed a great capacity to learn from his mistakes and grow as a person.

I also liked the slow burn of the romance (if you can call it that, since this book was just barely the start of the relationship) as Scarlet kept trying to sneak his way past the toll and Liall kept catching him, amused by all his antics. Of course, Scarlet wasn’t quite as amused, and I couldn’t blame him. My favorite scene in the book was the one when their back-and-forth reached its boiling point. The scene started out so fun with a little play on the Red Riding Hood story, but then it suddenly took a drastic turn and became so intense and charged with anger and tension. And Liall’s thoughts, the way he immediately became kind of defensive because he knew he was wrong but didn’t want to admit it to himself, were nicely realistic.

Another thing I liked was how the author took something that could’ve been problematic and turned it on its head so that not only was the character’s behavior pointed out as being wrong, it really added something to the story and the character growth. *SPOILER ALERT* Liall was charging a toll for people to use the road, but from Scarlet he demanded his body rather than money (first he charged a kiss, then he upped it to an hour with him on Scarlet’s next attempt, then he upped it to a whole night with him on Scarlet’s next attempt, and Scarlet kept refusing). Scarlet eventually got so angry that he called Liall a rapist for how he kept trying to force himself on him (not physically, but by charging that toll for the road he needed to take). Scarlet’s father also said to Liall when he met him, “So, you’re the Kasiri who tried to make a whore of my child.” And upon realizing how wrong his actions were, Liall was ashamed and tried to make up for his mistakes. *END SPOILER ALERT*

The only thing I didn’t like about the romance was that I’d have preferred the word love not been used since the two men had hardly spent any time around each other. To be fair, I think it was only used once by one character, and it was just a thought in his head, but still. The characters’ actions were still believable though; just being interested and drawn to each other was a plenty good explanation for why they made the decisions that they did.

As for the writing, it wasn’t flowery or anything, but it pulled me into the story and seemed to match the high fantasy world.

Speaking of which, this was a super detailed and thought-out high fantasy world, There were all these different regions and cultures and types of people and words. I had a bit of trouble keeping track of things since I’ve only recently started getting into high fantasy and am not used to that kind of stuff, but not so much trouble that it affected my enjoyment.

So overall this book was mostly just setting up the romance and the situation and the world, but I enjoyed it, read it quickly, and was interested enough in the characters to keep reading the series!


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22 thoughts on “Book Review: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (Scarlet & the White Wolf Book 1) by Kirby Crow

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  1. Christy LoveOfBooks

    Sounds like a nice start to the series. Yeah, high fantasy can be hard to follow sometimes when it’s a complex world. Glad it didn’t hinder your enjoyment of the book, though.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was! And yeah, I guess it can definitely be hard to follow sometimes. I’m especially terrible with remembering places lol. Luckily it wasn’t too much of a problem.

  2. Laurie @ Bark's Book Nonsense

    I read your spoiler because I was worried when I read of the “toll” being charged. It sounds like it was handled in a way I’d accept. I’m not eager to start a new series so I’ll wait until the other books are written and see how it evolves. Great review, Kristen.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I was worried about that too when I started the book, but it was handled really well! So far there are four books out in this series, but it’s not finished yet. But I’m always eager for more series, haha. Thanks!

  3. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    Sounds like a really good one! I don’t really go for high fantasy, but I LOVE character drive novels so I might have to try this at some point. I’m glad you felt the romance was done realistically for the most part. 🙂


    1. Kristen Burns

      I didn’t used to care for high fantasy, but now I like it as long as it’s character-focused. It’s fun being transported to a completely different world. Thanks, I was also glad the actions of the characters in the romance seemed realistic 🙂

  4. Greg

    It does sound very character- driven. And a carnal toll- that’s original! Although I would be a little concerned about the coercive aspect of it, nice to see (yeah i read the spoiler) that it’s addressed and Liall grows from the experience. Should be interesting to see how their relationship develops down the road. Ha no pun intended. 🙂

    Nice that it’s such a detailed world too! One of the things I like about high fantasy…

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was definitely character-driven. And yeah, I was worried about that toll and how it might turn something coercive into something sexy, but thankfully it was handled really well and not brushed off as being ok by anyone. Lol, accidental puns are the best kind 😛

      Yeah, I do love being transported to a whole different world! I’m just terrible at remembering places lol.

  5. Bookworm Brandee

    Well, I love this cover. I’m not much of a high fantasy reader but this seems like it’s interesting even if it’s mostly setting up things for the next book. I have to agree with you about the use of the “L” word. That’s something that really bothers me when I haven’t experienced enough of the two together to have gotten there with them, much less them get to that point. I just read the spoiler and I like that the author went there! I’d think that would be important in character growth since Liall was remorseful for his actions. So I might not ever read this but I’m glad you enjoyed it for the most part. I look forward to seeing what you think of book #2. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I adore the covers for this series! That’s true, I don’t recall seeing much, if any, high fantasy on your blog. I’ve only recently gotten into it. Yeah, I just don’t understand characters always have to jump to love when just plain feelings or interest will do in the beginning, you know? But luckily their actions were still realistic and the word was only used once. And I agree, I love how the toll thing was handled and used for character growth! Thanks 🙂

  6. Wattle

    I have had this on my kindle for ages, but haven’t read it yet (story of my life), mainly because I find high fantasy difficult sometimes (as in, dry and unnecessarily convoluted) but I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  7. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Huh, sounds pretty interesting. It sounds like it was a fun read and enjoyable. Glad to see the world building was good, I always appreciate a book that puts the effort to create an original world for the story to be grounded in. I mean, the fact love got mentioned when this was a slowburn romance is slightly annoying but if it was as you say it wasn’t said aloud so that definitely helps.

    I’m intrigued now, I kind of want to read it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was enjoyable! I do appreciate good world building, I just wanted everyone to know it would be complex so they’d know what to expect. Yeah, the L word was a bit frustrating but the fact that it was only in the character’s mind made it not too bad.

      If it sounds like your kinda thing, then you’d probably like it!

  8. verushka

    I like how you described them as imperfect — that sort of care with the characters, willing to work at making them better, I loveee that! TY for the awesomely detailed review 🙂