A wonderful fantasy romance with very well-developed characters and rich world-building. A true and honest pleasure to read, and I almost wish I could go back to my pre-Lord of the White Hell self so I can go through it for the first time again. (I'm sure rereading will be just as fantastic, but I still remember my feelings of excited awe as I turned the pages, not knowing what would happen next.)
This is the first "long" work I've read by Hale, but I've been really impressed with her novella contributions to the m/m fantasy anthologies The Irregulars, Hell Cop 1 and Hell Cop 2. (All very recommended reads.) Hale easily makes the jump from novella to a much longer novel. (And that's how I would qualify Lord of the White Hell 1 & 2--it's a long novel broken up into two 350 page books. If you're really enjoying book 1, you should do yourself the favor and go ahead and buy book 2. I don't think you'll regret it.)
Hale's writing is smooth and detailed, and she adeptly paints a rich setting without overtaxing the reader with too much information. (And I kept wanting to go out and find some marzipan to eat after reading about Kiram's care packages from his candy-maker mother.) The characters of Javier and Kiram were both very well-developed--imperfect, and yet you very much wanted to root for them (and for their developing relationship.) Javier also grew in ways that I would never have expected from the start of the book. You watched as a young haughty man grew to better understand himself, and also take steps to control and understand the "hell" within him. The way both they and their relationship evolved was very riveting to read.
It reminded me a little of Harry Potter, not so much for the magical fantasy setting, but there is one larger mystery that looms over the characters through multiple school quarters and seasons. They still had classes to take, and competitions to train for, but all the while, darker forces were still developing. Also like in HP, there are a lot of developed side characters, including school chums and relatives. All of these characters felt very realized and added to the depth of the story without overshadowing the evolution of the two main characters.
All and all--if you're looking for an excellent fantasy with the added bonus of a well-developed and captivating m/m romance, I can't recommend these two books enough. Hale is a fantastic writer, and after finishing this, I felt somehow "blessed" to have read it. (Strange but true.) I look forward to diving into her next work.