Review: Brutal Rival by Ember Holt





Scarlett Bloodletter narrowly escaped her own assassination at the tender age of fourteen. Why had her mother, the queen, tried to kill her? Beats Scarlett, but she assumed it was because she was a nomaj. Without a drop of magic in Scarlett’s blood, she was useless to the throne. Reduced to all kinds of deplorable things to survive the harsh streets of the kingdom’s poverty-stricken “Underbelly,” Scarlett has grown into a feared criminal with two things on her kill the queen and liberate her sisters, the only people she still has a heart for…until Zane.

Zane, the Spider Lord, is a fearsome gang leader of the Underbelly known for decapitating his victims and poisoning his rivals. There’s only one thing he more fiercely protects than his territory; his Nomaj Princess of Prayers, Scarlett. He’ll do anything to keep her off her knees and will kill anyone who looks at her twice.

After one passionate night leads Zane to discover Scarlett’s dirty secret, he’s helpless to resist her cause. After all, what’s more exciting than plotting to kill a queen?


Reviewed by Nethra Deckland

Brutal Rival by Ember Holt kicks off with a bang, or rather, a bold move straight into a blowjob scene in the first chapter. Talk about grabbing your attention, right? I was all in, thinking this book was gonna be a wild ride. But boy, was I wrong.

As I kept reading, the initial shock wore off, and disappointment settled in like a stubborn fog. The plot? Yeah, it’s about as original as a rerun. And the lack of explanations? Don’t even get me started. The world-building? Minimal at best. Magic system? A dud. And let’s talk about those infamous ‘spindles.’ What are they made of, and how do they work? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Underbelly of the city and the territories? They could’ve been fascinating, but thanks to the author’s lack of explanation, they fell flat. And Scarlett’s mom? Total mystery. Why she’s the way she is and why she wants her daughters dead? Beats me.

Scarlett, oh Scarlett. I had high hopes for her to be the ultimate badass heroine, but man, was I let down. Her backstory? About as clear as mud. I mean, how did she go from delicate princess to powerful Underbelly territory holder? Your guess is as good as mine, because the book sure didn’t bother explaining. And let’s talk about her “legendary” blowjobs. Seriously, what’s up with that? I get it, it’s supposed to be edgy and all, but it just came off as ridiculous. So, she needs a man’s seed to steal their magic (one of three ways)? What if it was a woman’s magic she needed? Would she have to… well, you know? It’s like a bad magic porn plot. Overall, Scarlett’s character left a lot to be desired. If you’re looking for a strong, well developed heroine, you won’t find her here. And if you’re hoping for some logical explanations, well, good luck with that.

Ah, Zane. The epitome of the overprotective dude. At first, I thought his need to protect Scarlett was kinda sweet. But then it got old. Fast. I mean, the guy was so obsessed with keeping Scarlett safe that he’d probably bubble wrap her if he could. It’s like he had tunnel vision, only seeing Scarlett and nothing else. But here’s the thing: his protective streak? It wasn’t cute. It was suffocating. Like, let the girl breathe, dude! Zane was all up in Scarlett’s business, meddling in her plans and never giving her a chance to do her own thing. It’s like he thought she couldn’t tie her own shoelaces without him. Sure, some might find Zane’s “I’ll protect you at all costs” shtick endearing. But for me? Nah, pass. Give me a guy who trusts his girl to handle her own business any day. Because let’s face it, nobody wants a clingy bodyguard for a boyfriend.

Overall, Brutal Rival had potential, but it missed the mark big time. If you’re into unoriginal plots, minimal world building, and more questions than answers, then go for it. But if you’re like me and prefer a bit more substance, you might want to give this one a pass. Ember Holt “YOU ARE SHOWING!”


Book Cover:

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