Review: Ghondatha by Emery Ayres

Title: Ghondatha

Author: Emery Ayres

Series: The Garden of Night Trilogy (#1)

Publication Date: May 5, 2018

Synopsis: The power to love. The power to heed your own voice. The power to hope in a world of blood and shadow.

Yesterday morning, most of Saphrona Melioska’s family was executed. Today, at dawn, she and her brother’s widow would have followed them to the block. But something changed.

Saphrona doesn’t know who paid for their sentence to be commuted, but by that act of kindness, she and her hearth sister are exiled to the remote island of Ghondatha, where Saphrona’s only relatives live.

She has nothing to take with her but the legacy of ten generations of master sculptors, a family name beloved in the world of Art, and her own credo: there is goodness and beauty in everything.

Upon their arrival at Ghondatha, however, Saphrona and Leigh find that even ageless Ghondatha is not what it once was. The island has a new liege-lord, a nobleman from the lavish Amkadan Empire, with deep pockets and extravagant ideas about progress.

All Lord Gideon Bloodstone requires is that the villagers obey three laws: no one may leave the island; all who are invited to his nightly masquerades must attend; and those who are not invited must mind the curfew and stay home.

Who is this man who has stolen the last familiar piece of life Saphrona has left in the world?

Someone who will change forever how she defines that which is good and beautiful.

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LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon

My Review:

The first book in The Garden of Night series, Ghondatha tells the love story of a dauntless sculptor and an enigmatic ruler. When Saphrona and her brother’s widow, the only surviving members of an executed sculpting family, are exiled to Ghondatha, Saphrona is shocked at how much it has changed.

Under Lord Gideon’s rule, people live well but have much stricter rules that Saphrona questions at every turn. When Saphrona meets Lord Gideon, she finds it difficult to resist his charms. A fellow book lover and mysteriously captivating, Lord Gideon intrigues her. But will Saphrona feel the same as she unravels the secrets of Ghondatha and Lord Gideon?

There are many aspects of this story that I enjoyed. The exceptional world-building and character development, especially the relationship between Saphrona and Lord Gideon, stand out as the highlights of the story.

The story takes place in a fictional world that is masterfully detailed. The history of the people and societies, the political power struggles, the caste system, and the mythologies are skillfully integrated into the story. I love how the author uses the library and the intimate and thought-provoking conversations between Gideon and Saphrona about literature and history to create a rich and immersive setting as well as further develop these dynamic characters.

Saphrona is a richly developed protagonist. Strong and sure, she has been through a lot and survived. She says, “I cannot be broken.” She is not a cowering, simpering female, and Gideon admires her for it. He respects Saphrona’s intellect, strength, and honesty. She also gives Gideon hope when she talks about beauty and her determination to see good in this world:

“It is inherent in the soul. Compassion. Courage. Hope. These are the things that make us human, and, to me, that what makes humanity both good and beautiful. Where there is that kind of beauty, there’s goodness, there’s hope.”

If Saphrona has hope like this and sees beauty in everything around her, even after all the loss and unfair treatment she’s received, if she is that accepting and open, then maybe she can see the beauty in him. Personally, I think she’d have to be blind not to see the beauty and goodness in him. Yes, he’s secretive and mysterious, but he also is kind, generous, and charismatic.

Plus, the things he say’s to her, the seductive, enchanting, eager, and sincere way that he speaks to her melts my heart. “Anyone who fails to notice your absence doesn’t deserve your company.” The depth of his feelings is evident early on in their relationship, and I found myself rooting for them despite their differences. Here’s another swoon-worthy quote by Gideon:

“He heard her heart pound and watched her turn rosy-cheeked with rage. So beautiful. So powerful. It was the rhythmic elixir in her veins that called him back to himself.”

My only complaint about the story is that it ended at a point in the plot that felt a bit anti-climactic. I don’t want to say much and give anything away, but I expected the big event that is about to change Saphrona’s life to occur at the end of the story and was a bit disappointed when it didn’t. That being said, now I NEED to read the next book ASAP because the feelings between Saphrona and Gideon (especially Gideon – the things he says!!!) are like a zillion fireworks going off at the same time!

This is a great story for people who like paranormal fiction with a slow-burning romance. The world-building is fantastic, and the characters are richly developed. I can’t wait to read the second book in the series! Thanks so much to Booksirens for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Parts:

The romance, of course! There’s a lot of slow-burning hotness going on – deep, penetrating stares, mesmerizing dances, electrifying touches and elegant words of desire that are swoon-worthy.

I also love how the author wove the history of the world in by having the main characters share a love of reading.

Favorite Lines:

  • “Knowledge is the best weapon against superstition.”
  • “Art is immortal. Faithful. Honest. It never lies. It offers us a glimpse of humanity at its best.”
  • “Hope is the most important thing in this world. Indeed, I believe, the only ugliness in this world, sir, is that which causes despair. Hoplessness is not part of human nature. It is the thief of dreams. It is the enemy.”


If you like young adult paranormal romance with strong and immersive world-building as well as dynamic characters, then this is the book for you!

If you think vampire romances are making a come back, (and you’re excited about it), give this book a try!

8 thoughts on “Review: Ghondatha by Emery Ayres

    1. Thanks so much! I really liked both of them, but I’m a sucker for a good ya paranormal romance. πŸ™‚ Lord Gideon is amazing, and the romance is magic!!

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