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Sacred Guardian #1

Through the Last Door

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When Kaori Sansa’s father dies, he is forced to return home to claim the throne as the rightful heir of the country of Kazure. In the aftermath of his father’s death, he learns that the country he loves is riddled with corruption, and is hovering on the brink of war. Will he be able to hold the kingdom together despite the odds that are stacked against it, and somehow unlock the buried powers of Shinja, the Sacred Beast of Kazure?

Novel (135,000 words)
Genre(s): Fantasy/Adventure, Gay, Romance


376 pages, ebook

First published December 19, 2014

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About the author

J.A. Jaken

25 books98 followers
J.A. Jaken has been writing homoerotic fiction for more than ten years. She got her start in the profession writing slash fanfiction, where she has published numerous stories under the pen-name Rushlight. Over the years she has written erotic short stories and novels in genres ranging from science fiction/fantasy to gothic horror to modern detective mysteries.

She realized at a young age that she was attracted to the darker side of life in the fictional stories she felt compelled to write. She feels there is something enormously satisfying about putting a character through intense physical and emotional hardship, and then carrying him or her through out the other side. She believes that is the main reason why she tends to write stories with a darker edge to them. Characters are the most interesting when they've had all of the baggage, all of their many masks, stripped away from them and they're left with nothing but the purest core of who and what they are.

Outside of writing, her interests include studying foreign languages, riding horses, practicing martial arts, and collecting medieval weaponry. She speaks a little bit of French, a little bit of American Sign Language, a little bit of Japanese, but she's not really fluent in any of them (although she's trying!). She's endlessly fascinated by just about everything she sees around her and is constantly looking for new ways to learn and improve her knowledge of the world.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews.
1,206 reviews43 followers
March 4, 2015
5 Hearts

Reviewed for MM Good Book Reviews Click link to take part in author giveaway (ends 26th December 2014)

Kaori is the Heir to the throne of Kazure, he’s been away studying for three years when he gets a message that his father is seriously ill and he should return home. Upon arrival Kaori discovers he is too late and his father has passed, throwing Kaori into a responsibility he isn’t sure he is ready for. Kaori grabs his new position with two hands determined to prove to the Lords of the Council that he can be the High Lord they need, Kaori is thrown head long into danger as he discovers corruption and a country on the brink of war. With the aid of his assassin bodyguards Hunter and Yura, his best friend Haku and his advisor Ishaya Kaori must hold together a country on the verge of falling apart and discover the secret to summon Shinja, the sacred Beast of Kazure.

~Lies on sofa *blissed out* revelling in the pure joy of a superb fantasy~ Oh all you fantasy lovers out there are about to get a true treat when you crack open this book, you will be transported to an incredible world that has a feel of feudal Japan and incredible characters who draw you into a journey that will have you gripped from the first chapter.

Kaori is a wonderful character who doubts his ability to run a country, he’s not the strong warrior that his father was but he has other qualities that will help him if he could just have confidence in himself. We see his doubt in himself especially when in the presence of the Lords of the Council, but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he thinks is for the best. We see the growth of his character throughout the book but he doesn’t change fundamentally so he is still the beautiful naïve/sheltered man we met on the first page.

Hunter has been Kaori’s primary bodyguard for many years, his past is harsh and he lives for Kaori. We quickly learn that Hunter has feelings for Kaori that he would never act on, he knows Kaori’s responsibilities and is just happy to be close. Yura is another of Kaori’s bodyguards who becomes a friend in the short time he is with them, he offers advice even when it isn’t wanted but he is a true friend in all ways. Haku was Kaori’s childhood friend who would do anything for Kaori, but when Kaori returns their relationship is slightly strained… yeah and that’s all I’m telling you ;-) .

I loved this incredible story, the way that J.A. Jaken wrote this story was just perfect, and I fell into this story easily and didn’t put it down until I turned the last page. The setting we find ourselves in is wonderful, a very old world feel with a high lord and several lords below him taking care of the country that has been isolated for years, carriages and horses are the main transportation, and we are given rich descriptions so you can easily imagine the country of Kazure. The characters are beautifully written, with each one coming alive for you, you become immersed in their world as you take the journey with them, feeling their fear, anger, happiness and joy. The storyline is fantastic, it might be about Kaori coming into his own but we are treated to an adventure that includes giant bugs, magic, deceit, betrayal and love. The relationship that we see developing between Kaori and Hunter was exquisitely presented, there were doubts on both sides, caution was practiced with upmost care and when they finally grasped the courage to admit their feelings it was just beautiful.

I recommend this to those who adore fantasy, who love characters discovering themselves, who love getting lost in a story, who love adventure and danger going hand in hand, who love fantastic characters who you root for, and who love a romance that is slow building but long lived and incredible.
Profile Image for Chris, the Dalek King.
1,167 reviews147 followers
May 4, 2016
Maybe, in the end, this was the lesson Yura had been trying to teach him: Live well. Live strong. Make any sacrifice for the ones you love. Keep the promises you make. Accept each day for what it is and nothing more; don’t worry about what happened yesterday, and don’t pin your hopes on tomorrow.

And above all, don’t be afraid to have fun along the way.

After the sudden death of his father Kaori is forced to give up his studies abroad and return to his homeland to take his place as the new ruler of Kazure. But while he is glad to see his old friends again, Kaori is having to deal with the frustration and stress of ruling a country he knows little about, and with the ‘guidance’ of eight Lords who pretty much have only their own lands in the forefront of their minds. On a tour of the four most outlying provinces, Kaori learns that not all is as it seems in his lands, or with his friends, and he is going to have to figure out who he can trust before he ends up dead and his country in the hands of a shadowy enemy.

When this book came up on offer for review here on the blog I was a little hesitant to pick it up. I’ve not read anything by this author before (though I have had several of her books rec’d to me by various people) and lately the “let’s give this one a try” method has not exactly been swinging in my favor. So, yeah. I was a bit hesitant.

And then I looked up the book, saw the cover, and ran back to claim this story for my own.

I am all kinds of slutty for a pretty cover, and this one sure is pretty. I don’t feel all that bad about it, to be honest, but I just wanted to give props to whoever was the cover artist because they give good cover.

However, a cover may sell a book but it sure don’t make one. That is all on the author and their writing. So I kinda had to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Turns out my friends may have had something when they rec’d me all those books, because I found I really enjoyed this story and this writing. It was a bit too lighthearted at times for my tastes, and I certainly wanted to shake Kaori everytime he went all kumbaya on everyone (for the love of all that is holy, must you trust everyone??), but at its heart, this is a really good story. And one that I really liked. Mostly because it wasn’t always lighthearted (next time why don’t you throw me off the freaking cliff, it would be easier on my heart!) and Kaori’s quirks start to grow on you because he never gives up and he doesn’t back down–-even sometimes when he probably should.

Also, there is Hunter. I love Hunter. All that glorious tension between Kaori and Hunter was built so very very nicely till it kinda just made my kindle combust. It may have taken forever for them to get there, but once they were there they were nicely stuck together. Probably in more ways than one.

While the blurb may have tempted me, and the cover sold me, it really was the story that made this well worth the time. Some very well rounded secondary characters helped give this story depth, and I liked how certain obstacles were overcome (even if I kinda saw them coming). Plus I really liked the world building here.

So, yeah. Good book. Go read it–-especially if you are in the mood for a fun fantasy story with slow-burn romance to keep you going.

4.5 stars

This book was provided free in exchange for a fair and honest review for Love Bytes. Go there to check out other reviews, author interviews, and all those awesome giveaways. Click below.
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Profile Image for Sarah.
482 reviews6 followers
June 19, 2022
The fourth and final book in this series has just been released and I highly recommend them to any lovers of m/m fantasy. I first read this book many years ago and it had me hooked enough to keep an eye out and follow the sequels as they have come out. The world building is excellent I love the Japanese vibe and the characters are highly engaging. JA Jaken has clearly put a huge amount of passion and effort into this series. Definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Toni FGMAMTC.
1,724 reviews19 followers
May 15, 2015
Through the Last Door would probably be categorized as a non western tradition, historical fantasy story. It's loaded with action, adventure and heart. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anything too major when I started to read it, but the writing totally won me over. Loving Kaori, the main character, was very easily done.

Kaori is in line for the throne. He is away at school. His father is a larger than life character in Kaori's eyes so he has lots of hesitancy about the future.
He suspected, on his darker days, that he was going to make a terrible ruler.

Totally unexpectedly, Kaori's father dies, leaving the weight of the entire country on his young shoulders. Just thinking about it is enough to make him panic, but he falls right into the position with vigor. He shakes things up a bit and proves there's more to him than what the under lords first believe. Along the way, he has help from many friends.
The problems in front of them didn't seem quite so insurmountable with this man by his side.

The High Lord and his companions travel the country, helping to defend lands, free people and reveal conspiracies. The plot never gets tired and keeps the excitement and momentum building.

Although I would not classify this as a true romance story, it does have a romantic interest. This isn't a highly erotic novel, but it does have a couple of sex scenes. Let me tell you, they were beautiful, emotional, touching and not corny in the least.

The theme of the story, if you look past all of the exploits and escapades, is love. Kaori loves his country and his people. His inner circle love and respect him. The storyline touches on love of self, family, friend, lover and country.

Another constants are growth and self-discovery.
People are a lot like houses. We're all of us filled with these dusty old rooms, so many of them that you could never count them all. Some have big, tall windows, and you can see right on inside them the moment you meet a person. But other rooms are deeper in, and you can only get to them by opening door after door after door. Sometimes you can know a person forever and realize you've only explored the barest surface of the rooms they have inside of them.

I totally recommend this book. I feel blessed to have read it.

***Copy given in exchange for an honest review***

FULL REVIEW CAN BE FOUND AT http://fangirlmomentsandmytwocents.bl...
Profile Image for Lila.
843 reviews9 followers
December 28, 2014
Ok, I love Jaken for two reasons:

1)she is constantly good with world-building (I liked both Pathfinder and THoS settings)

2)she is not afraid to take risks and go dark with characters.

First reason is why I wanted to read gay fantasy written by her as soon as I saw the announcement on her website.
But if you are tuning in more for reason #2, I have to disappoint you- We have romance and it's of the sweetest kind. More in line with Megan Derr.

It's easy and interesting enough read : Until 50% mark it's pretty much on-the-road adventure with our heroes battling monsters against all odds and being all heroic and stuff.
Then it switches to court intrigues and politics.
I should have loved all of this, and I admit I was entertained to a degree... but I was not surprised once.

To cite GRRM*:
"The battle of good and evil is a great subject for any book and certainly for a fantasy book, but I think ultimately the battle between good and evil is weighed within the individual human heart and not necessarily between an army of people dressed in white and an army of people dressed in black. When I look at the world, I see that most real living breathing human beings are grey.”

Kaori, Hunter, Razgul... they were all one-dimensional characters. Good guys were all good and bad guys were all bad- there was not one character who is a little more complicated. Hence, all scene we should have been surprised about...were not surprising at all.

It was an ok, but predictable read.

p.s. Speaking of GRRM- There is Eyrie in this novel; maybe a nod to ASoIaF?

326 reviews2 followers
August 26, 2021
The blurb of this book totally appealed to me as a fantasy fan and I became really curious about this story. "Through the Last Door" surprised me with a wonderful writing style and a fantastically described fantasy world.

You have time to become familiar with the world and its protagonists. You get to know Kaori, who interrupts his studies to return to Kazure after the death of his father, the king.
Kaori is an incredibly sympathetic character, who is supposed to take over the rule of Kazure and now has to find his way around in his position. In doing so, he performs some tasks quite differently than expected, and so Kaori sets out to get his own picture of the borders of his realm.
He is assisted by his equally brave and strong Guardian Hunter, as well as other companions. The secondary characters were created as lovingly as profoundly and you quickly take them into your heart.

Both the main protagonists and the secondary protagonists have many character traits that bring them to life: they are intelligent, brave, gentle, sometimes funny and sometimes insecure, yet loyal and honest.
The friends get into difficult situations that they have to overcome and that do not leave the listener untouched. On the contrary, I was rooting for them, fighting along with them, and suffering along with them.

I was absolutely captivated by both the development of the story and the development of Kaori and Hunter's relationship.
The descriptions of the lands, the people who live in them, the myths, and the political power plays and machinations, are also masterfully done by the author.

The audiobook was narrated by Dan Calley and I admit it: it took me a few chapters to get into the audiobook, because I had to get used to his British pronunciation. But that's because English is not my first language. Dan Calley has a talent for bringing the story to life with his great voice. He gives each character their own voice and pitch, which I really enjoyed.

I highly recommend "Sacred Guardian, Book 1" for lovers of epic fantasy and look forward to seeing what happens next with Kaori and Hunter!
Profile Image for multitaskingmomma.
1,359 reviews41 followers
January 19, 2015
Original Blog Post: Blog Tour, eARC Review, Excerpt & #Giveaway: Through the Last Door by J.A. Jaken

Through the last door is a fantasy novel written in the usual style but with a little bit of difference in its feel. For those of you who like to watch Anime, then you know what I mean.

This is a high fantasy story set in an alternate universe with the feel of historic Japan and something else. Just like in anime, the quiet way this is written contrasts beautifully with the almost dramatic visuals that come to mind. As this is a written novel, it is technically not anime but the descriptive voice of the author makes visualizing the angles and the panning of scenery or the zooming in on the feelings and thoughts of the different characters, it is definitely anime-like. At least, for me. As I love the genre and enjoy the blood and guts flying every which way I can, then yes, I loved this book.

This is as fantasy as fantasy gets, for those who love the genre. There are snakes and bugs, there is action, there is intrigue, there is betrayal, there is the hint or blatancy of magic at play laced with the hint of the supernatural or paranormal, and, of course, there is the romance. The plot is paced in such a way where one scene merges into another before morphing into something else. There is also the style of which I liked, when the scenes are not all sex or all action or all talk, it actually develops. The quest-like turn of events move forward and if it drops in one part, it will be surely picked up at another time to explain the whys of it. In short, it was like watching something instead of reading it. Yes, it is that visual a read!

As for the characters, all of them, from the main to the secondary, all of them were treated equally so instead of getting a thorough idea of who Kaori and Hunter are and leaving the rest to be merely two-dimensional to fill in a blank space, all of the characters are three-dimensional. I felt like I knew how each one thought and felt so was not surprised when they did what was expected of them. Neither did I get surprised by what they actually did.

Oh my, if the author were a bit less, then this would have been an epic fail but she is highly talented and so I rest my case.

Overall, this is a highly recommended read for all those who love the fantasy genre with an M/M twist.
Profile Image for Stephanie   GooglyEyes.
1,163 reviews32 followers
February 6, 2015
What a fun story. It had loads of detail and reminded me a bit of "The Last Samurai" meets "The Lord of the Rings".

It had a very huge Japanese undercurrent, which the author talks about at the end of the book, but in an otherworldly atmosphere.

Young Kaori is left the lands with his father's sudden death. Having been off at college in another country, he never got to say goodbye and ease his way into his " High Lord" role. He decides to get a better feel of the land and the 8 Lords, by going to visit each one.

This is where it reminded me a bit of LotR, the action/adventure portion. They set out to adventure and have run ins with strange "creatures" and evil-doers. Among their travels they encounter secrets which unfurl more secrets. It was fun trying to figure them out with Kaori and friends.

I thought the writing and story telling was brilliant, the characters were well developed. The villains very villainous and the Hero's had big hearts, they were hard not to fall in love with.

I know some like their stories "hot and steamy", but this story, you're not going to get that, and you're not even going to care. Of course the MC's come together as they should, but it in a traditionally pure romance and full of love kind of way. I thought their love and the " meaning" behind the story was heart filling and uplifting. Just an all around great read.

I give it 4+ stars

***Given as and arc for my honest review***
Profile Image for Qin.
532 reviews34 followers
November 22, 2017
Though I fell in love with the writing and was deeply moved by the sweetness of the princeling forced into assuming the crown despite his trusting, if not naive, nature not making him the best fit, there was a distinctive lack of substance in this longish story, a real awkwardness as to the pacing and structure (it was not an outstanding idea to have the novel fall into two halves, first an adventure then a static palatial and courtly intrigue), that spoiled my reading pleasure. The splendid world building is of no help in counterbalancing the weakness of the main couple. I know that opposites are supposed to get attracted to each other, but in the case of Kaori and Hunter what Frenchmen call le mariage de la carpe et du lapin fully applies: they are unidimensional ciphers meant to play the act they have been designed for to and end up together without any concern for how ill-suited they may seem or how unbalanced their couple dynamics might appear. On the face of it, the choice of a deliberately non Western mythology blending a basically imperial Japanese ambiance with many elements of high fantasy, no matter why the designer of the, otherwise gorgeous, cover has not been told to try and illustrate it (for the lad shown in this artwork exhibits facial features and coloring that look quite Europeocentric, that is: Caucasian), works fine as a golden background against which Kaori and Hunter should have gained life and pictorial relief, instead of fading somewhat away out of their sheer blandness. The mere fact that their love story is not heavy at all on the smut only contributes to this impression; fading to black or ellipses hardly contribute to the life-like quality of the heroes. The book thus almost reads as YA or NA. Not being myself a devoted reader of Tolkien's imaginary worlds, mostly because, as an ancient languages buff I find tedious his perpetual dragging in of invented tongues, I was not very sensitive to the ways in which Mrs Jaken pays lip-service to The Lord of the Rings; for me, her book was fresh enough and it worked tolerably well in the same literary subgenre, albeit with a rather less ponderous style (Tolkien is no stylist !) and a full-throated MM twist. Yet, for all that I enjoyed the universe created by Mrs Jaken, I would gladly have traded a good many pages of world-building through dialogue or journeys into the country for a more engaging power couple and a far greater amount of time devoted to the secondary cast, who often cuts a much better figure than Kaori or Hunter. That, on the whole, my judgment remains largely positive is a tribute to the sheer quality of Mrs Jaken's imagination as well as a measure of my praise for her ability to make the picturesque visions in her head come alive on the printed page.
Profile Image for Annie Maus.
351 reviews11 followers
August 1, 2022
J.A. Jaken’s “Through the Last Door” is a charming new adult odyssey about the ideals we choose to become mature. An unprepared young ruler must prove his mettle in a mythical land whose technology is parallel to our 19th century.

Kaori is called back from university to his homeland after his dad, the High Lord, falls ill, then dies. Now it is up to Kaori to save his country. To do so, he must face mythical creatures, political treachery and, without any training, summon an ancient creature only conjured by High Lords to protect their reign. Can he find the wisdom and courage?

And what about Kaori’s feelings for his bodyguard, Hunter? Even if Kaori proves he has the integrity to lead, is the country ready for a gay head of state? This classic coming of age story shows why sexual orientation doesn’t alter the principles of good governance.

Ms. Jaken’s plot kept me on my toes and gave me goosebumps in all the right places. “Through the Last Door” had a nice balance of tenderness and revulsion. There are vile forces in the realm, who permit base acts to maintain power. While depicting the fiendishness with sufficient emphasis to ensnare me, Ms. Jaken left much to the imagination. The novel did not disgust.

This is a world as familiar as it is alien. It’s evils are similar to today’s. But Ms. Jaken has introduced the touch of mythical magic to make us squirm, wondering what will pop up next. Mastery over these challenges is Kaori’s path to self-awareness. As Hunter tells him, “’The one who underestimates your abilities is you, Kaori.’” I liked how his difficulties begin with external problems, solved by the sword, then turn increasingly internal. Because it’s a huge struggle for most of us to find balance between honorable acts and self-acceptance of our limits.

And Ms. Jaken offers wisdom. Like, when Kaori’s advisor suggests people are like houses. “’Sometimes we ... forget there are floors and floors of other rooms in there just waiting to be explored. Sometimes we’re afraid to open too many of our doors, for fear of what we’ll find on the other side of them.’” And in the end, Kaori concludes, “His inner rooms were not hollow or frightening at all, but decorated by the things … visitors left behind….The inner rooms of his mansion were filled, not with horrors, but with people.” In today’s language, “it takes a village.”

You can read “Through the Last Door” for a delightful coming of age epic written about new adults, but pertinent to any age. I was transported from my own problems to an era of virtue and gallantry. The novel reminded me of the valor I see in civic marches, and in authors who put their creativity on the line so we readers can recapture our own idealism.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,048 reviews184 followers
May 11, 2021
This epic offers a whole new fantasy world to explore. And this time we don’t follow a peasant or even a minor noble. Here the main character Kaori is the scion of the royal family. This epic initially had the feel of Dune, but as many reviewers have said… with a Shogunate Japanese aspect. That Japanese feel is muted quite a bit when read & voiced by Dan Calley in his variety of regionally English accents.

As a young and unproven sovereign, Kaori resolves to visit the outlying provinces of his new realm and assure the border lords that he understands and appreciates their interests. Accompanied by several of his friends and bodyguards, this trip soon becomes more than he expected.

To call this a slow-burn is a colossal understatement. It’s sixteen chapters (5+ hours of audio-book) before the phrase “relationships between men” is even spoken, and over 30 chapters before we get past a simple snogging. To be sure, there is a slow burning M/M relationship at the heart of this saga, but it’s not expressed primarily in the bedroom. Though rest assured it is finally achieved.

The world building here is superb, and woven into the tale seamlessly, seldom interrupting the present time action. Kaori, the main character, seems hopelessly naive and trusting at times, and yet it’s probably that quality that has surrounded him with such a supportive cadre of supporting characters. Yes, there ARE a few villains, but most of the main character’s trust is not misplaced.

Note: There are plot elements that deal with child slavery and some may find this harrowing, but its not outside the norm for this style of sword and sorcery style fantasy tale.

Dan Calley does his usual, capable job with both the narration and giving voice to the various characters in the tale. There were a few British pronunciations that seemed jarring to my fully American ear, but that is easily made up for with the wonderful voice acting for all of the main characters and supporting cast.

I’m not sure if he was even aware of it at the time, but Calley does manage to pick somewhat annoying, weaselly voice characterizations for the real villains. That gave an odd sort of foreshadowing to the tale.

At 13+ hours this is one of the longest audio-books I’ve listened to, and one of the first where I noticed the Audible Cloud reader hang up while “buffering” from time to time. I’m not sure if it’s common in longer books, but simply closing the audible reader and reopening it seemed to consistently solve the problems.

Knowing the nature of this tale, I think it would make an ideal road book for a long drive. I’ll be sure to bring this (or possibly the sequel if it’s been released on audio-book by then) along on my next long road trip.

Profile Image for Farida Mestek.
Author 8 books23 followers
June 13, 2019
I honestly don’t remember the last time I read a book that not only hooked my interest but kept me interested till the very end; that brought me so many varied emotions and so much sincere pleasure. From the moment I started reading THROUGH THE LAST DOOR I had an impression of a masterfully crafted book, steeped in history, tradition, myth and lore of that incredible fantasy world the author has created. I felt like every word and every sentence was cherished and honed to perfection, creating a deliciously rich narrative, full of vivid descriptions, endearing characters, intriguing relationships and steadfast friendships. I liked the fact that the author didn’t throw us right into action but gave us time to acquaint ourselves with the world and the characters around us – gave us an opportunity to invest in their goals and well-being before jumping into the fray – so that when one of them perished half-way through the book the shock and the blow were severe and real indeed. I actually cried. I could not believe that such an amazing character was gone for good and so soon too! I really want to thank the author for gradually easing us into the story and for creating such an amazing set of characters: Kaori, Hunter, Yura, Ben, Haku, Ishaya, Malo, others… brave and strong, honest and loyal, intelligent and wise, fierce and gentle, funny and grave, insecure and full of doubts... I thought that the book took a somewhat different route as compared to other fantasy stories so that the events unfolding on its pages took me completely by surprise. I also enjoyed the romance, which, just like the rest of the story, wasn’t rushed. It was sweet and tender and precious and heartwarming. I knew before long that this was the book that I would come back to again and again. I like books that make me feel like coming back home to family and friends and I think that THROUGH THE LAST DOOR is one such book. I have downloaded it for free but I have already bought the second book in the series and I can’t wait to return to Kazure. However, I am strongly tempted to reread the first book again :) I am that much in love with it!
Profile Image for Gabbi Grey.
Author 26 books202 followers
June 1, 2021
Test of Valour (an audio review)

At over 13 hours, this book is epic. It tells of a young university student thrown into the role of leader upon the untimely death of his father. Kaori Sensa is ill-prepared for this position and had believed he had time. He quickly realizes he will be afforded none. As High Lord, he is expected to rule over a vast kingdom. This book is a quest of sorts – he must learn about his people. In the process, of course, he learns about himself.

His adventures are interesting as he solves riddles, solves crimes, and generally brings to light some of the criminal elements of his people. Sometimes it pushed credulity that this young man could find solutions no one else saw, but that’s part of the magic. There are fantasy elements, to be sure, but they aren’t as prominent than in other books I’ve read. There is a timelessness to this tale as all epic quests are.

Kaori’s one blind spot is his affection for Hunter. He knows nothing of this guard who is just always there. Hunter’s backstory is revealed as this book has the dual point of view and it’s tragic and disturbing to be sure. As the men spend time together, Kaori admits his attraction to his bodyguard. But how will that work? He is expected to marry and produce an heir. Well, there’s a clever solution to that which I really liked.

I love Dan Calley as a narrator, and he was one of the reasons I tackled this book. His voice worked in this story and I loved how he brought the words to life. Apparently this is the first in a series which surprised me since the resolution felt true. Ah well, I’m intrigued to see where it goes next.
Profile Image for Ariel.
240 reviews31 followers
March 19, 2018
"Maybe, in the end, this was the lesson Yura had been trying to teach him: Live well. Live strong. Make any sacrifice for the ones you love. Keep the promises you make. Accept each day for what it is and nothing more; don’t worry about what happened yesterday, and don’t pin your hopes on tomorrow. And above all, don’t be afraid to have fun along the way."

This was fabulous! The Japanese-like setting and the engaging characters are what really make this book is such a fantastic read. The main character Kaori was such an endearing and likable character that I couldn't help but root for him the entire time. He's so determined to prove himself worthy of his station and to protect everyone he loves.

The side characters were just as enjoyable to read. Yura, Haku, Hunter, and even the children brought so much genuine emotion to the story which made it that much more enjoyable. Hunter especially was such a great character. His devotion to Kaori was so heartwarming and I loved the slow-burn romance that blooms between the two of them.

I really loved the world this book is set in and found myself completely absorbed by the plot and the characters' (specifically Kaori's) adventures and hardships. I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

5 Stars
Profile Image for Anaba.
247 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2021
This book was a real surprise. The blurb got my interest, but the story is much deeper and more complicated than I have expected.
It starts when Kaori is forced to return to Kazure. Soon he walks a tightrope. He has to face political intrigues and other problems.
I enjoyed Kaoris character a lot. He has learned and studied a lot but he still feels unsecure in his new position. With the death of His father his whole world changed. His character development is exciting. Fortunately he is not alone. Hunter, his Guardian and a few close friends support him.
They All have to face difficult situations and all their skills are needed.
Hunter is very supportive towards Kaori and his story is touching.
I loved the way Hunter and Kaori interact with each other. There is a slow building tension between these two men. But the romance is a minor matter compared to all the breathtaking problems they have to solve.
The next two books in this series have already been published and I Hope the audiobook will follow soon. I can't wait to meet Kaori and Hunter again.
The narrator Dan Calley is a very good choice. His slightly soothing voice carried me away easily.
Profile Image for Helen.
784 reviews2 followers
June 8, 2021
Wow, not what I was expecting

Nearly 14 hours of audio for 1 credit and an amazing book to listen to, plus the smooth, incredible voice of Dan Calley. What's not to like.

Kaori returns home from university when his father dies suddenly, and he has to step up and become the leader of his country Kazure.

But there's unrest and friction. Will Kaori find out what's happening, and will his true and trusted protector Hunter stay by his side.

I enjoyed this book/audio, I don't usually listen to books like this, but I lost myself in this and would listen to more books by J A Jaken,

I do love Dan Calley reading in my ear. I did speed it up but only to 1.30 as I do with most audios on audible.

Through the Last Door
Sacred Guardian, Book 1
By: J.A. Jaken
Narrated by: Dan Calley
Series: Sacred Guardian, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 38 mins

❤❤❤❤ Overall
🎧🎧🎧🎧🎧 Narration
📚📚📚📚 Story
Read at 1.30 speed on Audible
Profile Image for Asher.
26 reviews
May 9, 2018
Great first book of the series

This is the first book I've read by J.A. Jaken and I enjoyed it immensely. It took me a little bit to get into the book. You're kind of thrown into the the life of Kaori without much background on the world or people. So the first bit you kind of feel like your scrambling for info. But after maybe 30 pages or so I was able to immerse myself into the book. And from there on it was a very exciting to read. It was facinating to see how Kaori learned to fit/ be comfortable in his new role as the High Lord. Also, the romance was very sweet. I will say one of the deaths in this book broke my heart, I had tears in my eyes while reading it. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series.
Profile Image for Hpstrangelove.
540 reviews13 followers
June 7, 2021
Audio book review. Narrator: Dan Calley.

I have wanted to read this book for some time now, but because of poor eyesight, I had to wait until it became available in audio.

It was definitely worth the wait. Dan Calley did a wonderful job of narrating the voices of the different characters. I love the world building here, along with a decent balance between plot and sex. I enjoy when an author can keep me guessing, too, as to who the traitor really is.

I don't like spoilers so I can't say too much more other than I am glad I listened to the audio. Reading the book would have been good, but the story came to life with Dan's narration. I highly recommend it.

And I can't wait to hear more of Dan's narration in this series.
Profile Image for Cathy Brockman.
Author 5 books90 followers
May 24, 2021
This was a very slow burn with all sex closed doors when it happened. Very sweet and sigh worthy. Made me swoon!
Now to my review.

This is a high fantasy with lots of action, devious plots to take over the kingdoms, spies, monster ant creatures and savior snakes. Sound good? Wait. Throw in hot body guards, slow burn romance and it’s even better.
The narration just brought the characters to life, made the story stand out and really bring forth the action. The story is long so it was nice to be able to listen while doing mundane tasks and have all this to enjoy hands free. I highly recommend the audio if you can afford it.
Profile Image for Joaquin.
191 reviews17 followers
September 13, 2020
this is the first book I read from this autor and let me tell you that I loved it! Such a good book
with great characters that keeps you obsessed with every page since the first one.
Can´t wait for book 2! Amazing job! definitely a must
63 reviews2 followers
March 15, 2020
Great read

Love the fantasy concept, mixed with realistic plots. Could have used a little more man action but it doesn’t take away from the book. It’s a great woven tale
Profile Image for llv.
1,935 reviews7 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 5, 2020
rating: dnf

Stopped at 19%. Story was interesting but way too tedious. Couldn't really get into it.
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