Brutal Rival: Ember Holt *Review*

Cover image of Brutal Rival by Ember Holt is in the centre of an image of spider webs in blue. Added text: To kill the Queen, Scarlett must make a deal with the Spider Lord...

Genres: Dark Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Fantasy | Release Date: 24 October 2023 | Series: The Princesses of Ruin | Series Book: #1 | Pages: 308 | Indie Author | Review

“I am the queen of darkness.”

Ember Holt


A huge thank you goes to indie author Ember Holt for letting me read an ARC of Brutal Rival! This dark fantasy romance is full of super spicy goodness, as well as a deadly assassin and a plot to take down an evil Queen. Need more convincing? Stay tuned, because we’re just getting started…

Scarlett Bloodletter is a fierce assassin, patrolling her corner of the Underbelly’s streets to deadly effect. But Scarlett’s got a much larger target in mind… Determined to kill her mother (the Queen) ever since there was an assassination attempt on Scarlett’s life twelve years ago, Scarlett won’t rest until she saves the sisters she had to leave behind in the palace. This nomaj Princess has a point to prove, despite everyone thinking she disappeared years ago. To fight the Queen, Scarlett needs an ally and Zane is her best bet: the Spider Lord is ruthless and will do anything to protect her. But what happens when Zane discovers the dirty secret Scarlett’s kept hidden her entire life? Is Scarlett capable of killing a Queen with immense magical powers? And will Zane persuade his rival to become his wife?

Cover image of Brutal Rival by Ember Holt is to the bottom left of an image of a spider web and small spider in blue. Added text: Can Scarlett trust Zane to protect her best interests? Will this Nomaj Princess get her revenge?
This super spicy tale has a unique twist of magic within its pages…

Happiness Boost:

Ember has a gift for creating the perfect tension in relationships, and the enemies to lovers trope in Brutal Rival is *very* intense! Scarlett’s interaction with others is a highlight of this fantasy romance, because her tough exterior hides a soft and squishy heart. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do to save her sisters, even though Scarlett hasn’t seen them for years. And if someone encroaches on her territory? Heaven help them, because Scarlett sure won’t! Ember’s characters never fail to delight my bookish heart.

Let’s talk magic, shall we? In Brutal Rival, the magic isn’t just a random spark that can do things. Aspects like Zane’s spindles (hence the Spider Lord title) are unique and I absolutely love the way Ember creates new forms of magic for every book she writes. And can we discuss the Nest? I don’t want to give away any spoilers but holy guacamole… Would I survive the Underbelly? Not even for a second. But this dark world certainly kept me in thrall throughout the story!

Ember’s fantasy romance is a *very* spicy tale, so if you’ve been wishing for a dark fantasy with a desperate love? Look no further! Zane and Scarlett’s attraction will singe your Kindle. There’s something to be said for ruthless assassins finding their other half, because their bond is limitless. And okay, the bloodshed might be immense if one of them is in danger… But even that is sweet when you think about it! Trust me, would I lie to you?


Although I wish the book could’ve been longer, that’s a purely selfish downside. After all, there’s three more books to come so I shouldn’t be greedy! I will also note that there’s a potential dubcon moment (check the trigger warnings), which I’m just unsure about in terms of its necessity to the story.

Final Thoughts:

Brutal Rival by indie author Ember Holt is a sizzling dark fantasy romance, featuring assassins and a deadly plot which will keep you hooked. It’s been a wonderful read, and I am so excited to see what comes next in The Princesses of Ruin series! Love what you’ve heard from my review? Just click on the link below to pre-order your copy! Happy reading, glitterbugs!

You can pre-order Brutal Rival via this link: Amazon

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