King of Flames (The Masks of Under Book 1) by Kathryn Ann Kingsley
Everything about my life has been pretty normal working as a forensic autopsy technician. Until the day I woke up with a mysterious symbol tattooed on my arm.
Suddenly normal no longer existed. The barrier between Earth and a world called Under, dissolved...
Now I’m trapped with dozens of other people. Held prisoner by the creators of myths and legends, where the realm is ruled by two masked kings who want to turn us into creatures like them.
But even though I didn’t choose to be here, this new world manages to pull me deeper, affecting me differently than other humans. Unfortunately King Edu, also known as the King of Flames, notices this and I’m now considered a threat.
If I want to survive King Edu and the dangers of Under, I need to escape. The only problem is, there’s another masked king who seems to have an interest in me. Aon, the King of Shadows, wants me here in this world, and he wants me alive.
I just need to figure out why.
The undead. Other worlds. Fate determined by the Ancients. And two rival kings of immense power. When Lydia wakes up one morning with a strange tattoo on her forearm, she soon learns that the mark is the least of her problems.
Oh boy where do I start? King of Flames was a gritty, mysterious, action-packed adventure right from page one. Kingsley definitely mastered the dark fantasy genre in a variety of ways. For starters, Lydia worked in a morgue. I loved how she was written with a sense of humor because, as Lydia even notes while working, dealing with corpses is rather grim. But Kingsley definitely didn’t shy away from sharing details! She did her research into Lydia would go about her day to day job, making the situation of dealing with the corpse vivid and realistic. From there Kingsley maintained her dark style through her details of Edu’s palace in Under - dimly lit rooms, skull decorations, and an overall grim atmosphere. Her consistency and attention to detail really nailed down this genre.
King of Flames, however, isn’t all doom and gloom. Lydia is constantly a bright spark of hope despite her dire situation. She’s a methodical, brave woman who stares down danger at, quite literally, every turn. Danger from a corpse. Danger from Edu and his minions. And danger from Aon (swoon). Yet each setback serves to strengthen Lydia’s character. She’s not the type of person who breaks down and cries, and she even keeps her head as she’s thrown into the land of Under with its bizarre rituals and monsters.
As a side note, I couldn't help picturing Ebony Maw from Avengers: Infinity War giving his "hear me and rejoice" speech when Ylena appeared to Lydia and Nick, bidding them to come with her at Master Edu's request.
Kingsley does a great job setting the stage for this series in just the first book. She puts Lydia in into a while new world and answers some questions about the workings of Under while leaving a lot more on the table that can be explored in the books to come. I’m so intrigued about the seventh person, the masks, and the role Lydia is supposed to play in Under. I can’t wait to read book two!
For more on Kathryn Ann Kingsley and her The Masks of Under series, check out her website: https://www.kathrynkingsley.com/.