Title: Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6)
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less than Three Press
Length: 70k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Magic, Demons, Angels, Vampires, Djinn, Cowboys, Dragons, Secrets & Lies, Past Trauma/Abuse, Mystery
Rating: Pretty Good
Jackie Black is a cowboy and sorcerer and proud of both. He spends his days breaking curses and locating items of interest for other abnormals. His pride and joy are the alchemy-enhanced pistols at his hips. The love of his life is Roman, a businessman and witch. Tired of living several states apart, Jackie decides to surprise Roman by moving closer.
But instead of being a happy surprise, Jackie finds himself the victim of an unpleasant one. Alone in a strange city, with nowhere to go and his world in pieces, Jackie is taken in by an old man who says he is a paranormal detective and could use someone of Jackie’s power and abilities to catch a killer.
I started reading this when it came up earlier this year as a sequel, and around the 40% mark I stopped reading, so I could wait until it was finished. Honestly, I think that I’m just not that good at reading serials unless they’re the never-ending kind, because I’m not that good at waiting, and no matter how good the book is I eventually lose interest having to wait. Still, I’m glad that I got to read the beginning of this when I did back in January, because it made me instantly fall in love with Jackie Black, gunslinger and man of charming words 😉 And that meant that I was really excited to see how his story ended.
Jackie Black, youngest in the long line of gun-slinging cowboy sorcerers is in love. He’s had a rough ride of it in the past, but he thinks that Roman is the one — enough to move from his long-time home in the country and live in the city. When he surprises Roman after Roman canceled their date to tell him the happy news, that he’s househunting closer, he finds a complete surprise that ruins their relationship irreparably. Now, Jackie is alone in a strange city he doesn’t know well with nowhere to stay.
But the cowboy Blacks have a way of stumbling across trouble, and they’re duty bound as honest men to help in any way they can. So when Jackie meets a old man who is on the hunt after a ruthless woman stealing power he does everything he can to help. What he doesn’t know is that by getting to know the old man, he stumbled into an even larger and longer unsolved mystery involving the old man himself, a scarred vampire, and his father, the Black before him (currently off who knows where and not returning his calls). Backing down would be better — it seems that everyone who has gotten involved over the years has been killed off — but Jackie’s honor won’t let him. And maybe a touch of stubbornness that says that whatever impossible creature is picking off the people around him, he hasn’t met a sorcerer like Jackie Black yet.
Really, the best thing about this book is Jackie. He’s such a great character that you can’t help fall in love with him. He’s straight out of the old west, honor and stubbornness and all, trying to fit into a modern magical world. He’s almost comical at first until you really see his human side, and after that it’s so easy to get swept up in his adventure. I must admit that because I read the first bit of this as serial and then stopped I was under the misimpression of who Jackie’s love interest in this was. At first, I was a little miffed, but it’s only because it had been around 7 months that I’d been thinking he ended up with someone else, and I just hadn’t read that part of the story yet. But it didn’t take long for me to see that his real love interest here fit him so much better. I only hope that the really interesting character that latches onto him earlier in the book (and isn’t, of course, his love interest) will get his book, because I was a little sad that he seemed to disappear a bit after the halfway mark. We didn’t get to see him as much, even though I found him really endearing and one of the most interesting characters so far in this series. It makes me wonder if Megan Derr does have plans for him later in the series because he’s such a puzzle that never get’s solved in this book.
Fans of the series will want to continue and read this book. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite, no matter how much I loved Jackie. I’m finding that even though I’ve enjoyed the last couple of books in this series I don’t have the same feelings as I had about the first three, which I just really loved and have read over and over. I’ll always continue to read, because even if Megan Derr’s books don’t turn out to be ones that I want to buy in paperback and keep as a comfort read, they’re still enjoyable, fun and a great escape. They’re some of the easiest and most comforting reading for me, and that only makes me even more excited for the next books to come.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Angels, Cowboys, Dance with the Devil, Demons, Djinn, Dragons, Less Than Three Press, Magic, Megan Derr, Mystery, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Secrets & Lies, Series, Vampire
Title: The Battle for Galerir (The Galerir Saga #2)
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 68k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (1 really hot scene!)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Dragons, Sweet & Light, Battles/War, Warriors, Knights, Royalty, Death, Established Couple, Meet the Parents, Magic, Mages/Sorcerers, gods, Secrets & Lies, Middle Book
Rating: Pretty Good
**Review contains spoilers for those who have not read the first book in the series**
Sword against sword, magik against magik, dragon against dragon, the Battle for Galerir is being waged and victory will come with great sacrifice.
A traitorous plot seals King Antony’s fate and the enemy is days away from reaching the kingdom of Galerir. Prince Tomas must become regent and ensure Galerir is prepared for war. Tomas must also learn to balance duty and love when he lifts the ban on magik and fights for the chance to openly love his knight, Griffin. Together, he and Griffin face their destiny.
After reading and reviewing the first book in this series, The Prince of Galerir in February of this year, I was excited and interested to see where Anna Lee would take this story. I had quite a bit of criticism for her then, even though I really enjoyed reading the story, and I was particularly interested to see the writing in this sequel. I wasn’t disappointed 🙂
We left Tomas and Griffin in the end of the first book in the capital city of Galerir and in the castle. Tomas has been accepted by the people and crowned as Crown Prince Tomas, nephew of King Antony of Galerir. Tomas didn’t know his uncle for all of his life, and only learned about his real heritage and family in the first book, after the events were set in motion for war for Galerir from a lost descendant eager for the throne and the weakened health of Antony. Until then, he was the son of a lord and his best friend is Griffin, now his knight. The two grew up together and fell in love. And only when it was the choice of a life married to a girl he doesn’t care about (and he’s gay) or running away with Griffin did the two admit their feelings — with a little help from a baby dragon they found and bonded with that helped them share their true emotions. But then, Tomas found out that King Antony was really his uncle and that he’d been hidden away until he was needed to secure the lineage and the throne.
This sequel carries forward in the outside plot more than the romantic plot. Tomas and Griffin are quite in love and committed to one another. They are engaged, and ready to change the laws that say one man cannot marry and love another, and eager to come out to the people themselves. Until that time however, they have a lot to deal with. Galerir is preparing for war from the lost descendant of one of the past kings and the rogue, evil dragon named Ator that he convinced to help him in his cause. King Antony is growing weaker and may be dying if they cannot find a cure to what is ailing him. And that means that Prince Tomas has even more duties than normal, acting as interim Regent while his uncle Antony is bedridden. Can they find those across the border that once had to flee Galerir when magik was made illegal? Will the elves, centaurs and dragons there help them in trying to unite Galerir as it once was? And will it be in time to stop the war that is coming?
I was really, really pleased with the writing in this story. I thought that Anna Lee’s writing grew leaps and bounds between the first book and this book. Perhaps it is also that Griffin and Tomas have been together a while and now are committed rather than very new lovers, but I also felt that the overly sweet and constant declarations of love were way toned down. Their relationship is still very sweet, but most of the tension and conflict in this series is not internal, but rather external. However, I really liked that their relationship grew in this book, and that was partly done because they, at times, but heads and argue. I loved that. I liked seeing a more dynamic relationship between them. The other reason that they grew together was the appearance of Griffin’s family, especially his father whom he has a rocky and abusive relationship with.
I got confused a few times. I’m not going to really spoiler you here, but I will tell you that this book ends with the end of the war. At least, I assume that’s the case unless the next book is going to introduce an even bigger villain that we didn’t know about. But, a few times I wondered if I had it wrong and this wasn’t the second book in a three-part series. Was this a duology and the battle and the end of the war was the end of the series? That is typically the end of the series arc in fantasy stories. But, according to the info at the end of the book, the third book Reuniting Galerir is to continue and I assume finish the series with Tomas and Griffin’s adventures to visit the magikal creatures I mentioned earlier to reunite the country. If that’s the case, then I’m really excited for the third book. The structure of the overall plot arc was not what I was expecting at all, but I’m excited by it. The forte of this story isn’t the politics of the world and the war, those act simply as a catalyst to explore the magikal world, creatures and people and mostly the relationship between Tomas and Griffin. It is, if I could describe it well enough, a more sweet and gentle exploration of a fantasy. I like that. I liked the first book okay, but after reading the second one I’m really interested and hooked on the series.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors J-L, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Anna Lee, Battles/War, Death, Dragons, Existing Relationship, gods, Knights, Light & Sweet, Mage, Magic, Meet the Parents, Middle Book, MLR Press, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Series, The Galerir Saga, Warriors
Title: A Knight to Remember
Author: Anne Barwell
Length: 65,490 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Dragons, Royalty, Alternate Reality Historical, Quests, Secrets & Lies, Merlin-fic, Magic, Mages, Shifters, Amnesia
Rating: So So
**This review contains some spoilers**
“The last of your line will be in the embrace of a dragon.”
Aric, Crown Prince of Astria, has been brought up to believe that all dragons are evil. But when he speaks with one, he finds himself questioning those beliefs. The dragon tells him to find a sword in Sherwin Forest to save not only his kingdom but also his sister, Georgia, who must otherwise wed the prince of a neighboring kingdom.
At the start of his quest, Aric dons a disguise and meets Denys, an archer and herbalist who lives alone at the edge of the forest. Denys agrees to guide Aric into the forest, but then Georgia appears, revealing Aric’s true identity.
However, Aric learns he is not the only one keeping secrets. Denys has a few of his own that could change both of their lives forever.
I was immediately drawn to this book for two reasons. First, I’ve wanted to read an Anne Barwell book forever. I’ve bought all of her’s as they’ve come out. They’ve all seemed rather interesting to me but for some reason I’ve never had time to actually read them. So I was really excited that she had written another book, which secondly, seemed rather Merlin-esque. You’ve got a crown prince, a king that has banished magic and is a pretty crappy father, and the fable of dragons which are supposed to be extinct, but really aren’t. How could I refuse, right? It’s like Merlin, but with gay guys!
And my reading went much like I thought it would, at least for the first half of the book, roughly. We meet Aric, the crown prince living under his father’s thumb and doing just about everything he can to make his own way and hold true to his own beliefs under such a stifling reign. His father has banished magic and Aric and his twin sister have grown up with quite a biased education about their history and the history of magic and magical beings in Astria. His beliefs are challenged when he once again sneaks out to visit his aunt, his dead mother’s sister — a forbidden act by his father — and is instead greeted in a forest glade by an ancient dragon. He’s baffled to see it at all (believing them to be extinct) and even more confused when the dragon doesn’t show the signs of aggression he was taught. Instead, the dragon speaks to him, the most surprising thing of all, and tells him that to save his kingdom and his sister, he must set out on a quest to seek the sword hidden in Sherwin Forest.
The Sherwin Forest is legend, a dark place said to once be the home of magic and dragons themselves, a place where no living person returns. But Aric must believe that what the dragon said was true. Their kingdom is in danger from their allies and a marriage treaty that would see his twin sister Georgia married off to the son of the neighboring King. Aric doesn’t trust them, however. It isn’t, as his father thinks, because he won’t let go of his sister, but because of a treacherous conversation he overheard, in which Georgia will become a pawn for their so-called allies to take over Astria. Georgia would just become a pawn and her happiness means more to Aric than anything else, even the kingdom he’ll one day rule.
My experience reading this book was good and disappointing at the same time. The first half of the book had me enthralled. I love a good sword and sorcery story and the first half of this book started well and continued strongly. Soon after Aric sets off to find his way to retrieve the sword from the fabled forest, he meets a handsome man in the woods that seems to have a special magical affinity, no matter how much he denies it. The man, Denys, is keeping his own secrets, but seems to believe what he says, which only makes him more mysterious. He reluctantly decides to help Aric, of whom he also knows very little. But Denys knows what happens to those who venture into the forest and how strange it is — how it can mess with your mind and how changed you are if you can make it back out. His strong and confusing connection to Aric make him want to help.
For me, this story really changed while they were in the forest. While I don’t begrudge an author a choice in their own book simply because it’s a plot device that I’m really not fond of (amnesia), that was the turning point for me in this book because after that the story seemed to collapse in on itself. Before that point, about midway through the book, there seemed to be a clear drive in the plot with their trek through the forest and getting to know each other. Afterwards, the story seemed to explode in different directions and it all became a little confusing for me. I felt like maybe the story wasn’t sure where it wanted to go. And yes, while it did eventually come back around, it felt like it was leaving out quite a bit of the story. I mean, it didn’t feel finished, which brings me to another issue. I wondered if this was the beginning of a sequel. If it is, then I really wish that Dreamspinner would promote it as such. That has happened before with some their books, where they’re the first part of a series but it isn’t written about anywhere. And maybe that decision comes later — it’s possible — but that changes my perspective on how I read the book and it definitely means that I consider the book in a different light. If it isn’t a first book in a series, then this story felt greatly unfinished. I didn’t particularly feel like the romance was finished but the main plot seems like an early part of a much longer story.
I pretty much knew the direction that the story was going to go — the main “surprise” if you will — from reading the blurb and at the very least from the minute that Aric meets Denys just after he speaks to the dragon. It’s not a very big leap to assume that is the case. And I was right. I suppose what disappointed me was the confusion in the way it got there. It seemed a bit messy. I have avoided, so far, reading other reviews for this book, but I would be interested now in taking a look or talking to anyone else who read this to see what they think. It’s possible, of course, that I just didn’t “get” this one and that it wasn’t for me. Maybe it’s the author’s style, as this is the first book of her’s that I’ve read. But part of me thinks not, since I felt such a change between the first half and the second half.
No matter my ultimately feelings, however, I still liked the book okay. I just wanted to like it a lot more.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Amnesia, Anne Barwell, Dragon Shifters, Dragons, Dreamspinner Press, Mage, Magic, Merlin-fic, Quests, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Shifters
Title: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Self Published (Coffee Squirrel Press)
Length: 92,479 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Urban Fantasy, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Post-Apoc, California, Graphic Violence (and other…things), Blood & Gore, Dragons, Past Abuse, Action/Adventure, Unusual Creatures, Magic, Tattoos
Rating: Really Liked It
Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.
There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.
It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.
After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human.
That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.
No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.
Pretty much all of you who read my reviews know that for the most part I’m rather reluctant to read anything angsty or intense. My tastes change and fluctuate of course, but for the last year to year and a half I’ve mostly left those alone. So somehow, I suppose because at the time I didn’t really know Rhys Ford’s writing all that well, I got into her writing even though she really flirts with the edge for me at times, no matter how much I end up liking the books. It takes me a bit of mental cheerleading to work myself into the frame of mind to start her books, and really it’s mostly the anticipation; fearing that the book will get too intense for me is more than half the battle, because I usually don’t mind as much once I start reading. But now that I know I’ll read anything by this author, it still means that I’m nervous starting her books. I was actually most excited about this one, mostly because I was really interested to see how she’d deal with urban fantasy when most of her writing that I’m familiar with are contemporary mysteries. And once I started, I was immediately sucked into it. Even though it was in many parts intense — it was just a different kind of intensity than I expected.
Kai Gracen is an anomaly among the lower denizens of San Diego. Taken in by Dempsey when only a feral elfin boy, the grizzled and uncouth hunter raised Kai in his shadow, among the human hunters of the black dogs, the spawn of the unsidhe that threaten the human population and whose hides earn money from the government. After a war between humans and the elfin races (both sidhe and unsidhe), the land is split between areas for each race to inhabit, with land specifically designated for the elfin to set up their courts. It also left the world full of monsters and beasties like the black dogs, making travel between those areas often difficult and dangerous.
As a hunter, Kai is skilled and extremely knowledgable about the area, which is why he’s called into the local government depot (where he gets paid for his kills) to take a non-negotiable contract to ferry a new elfin lord up the coast during dragon mating season. The run through Pendle is dangerous even without the complications that the sidhe lord brings, the first being their passenger on return. Ryder, the sidhe lord, is new to San Diego, setting up a new court (the Dawn Court). He needs to retrieve a pregnant human from the sidhe city in Los Angeles and needs Kai to take him, serving as guide and bodyguard.
This book drew me immediately in. It feels… literally jam-packed with action and plot. It’s almost as if there’s no stopping. And after reading the book and then seeing that it’s only just shy of 100k words. Honestly, I felt as if I’d read twice that. There’s so much to this story, starting with the world and the characters. This book does well as the first of a new series to set up the world, but so much of it is in great detail. It is rather smartly done, too. We don’t need a history lesson, because while we don’t really know how the war between the humans and elfin came about or how it played out, it’s fairly self-explanatory by how the world is set up. Both races have their positive and negative qualities, and Kai is uniquely placed to give us perspective on both of them, while having his own unique one about where the two races collide. Over the course of the book we learn quite a bit about his history, which is fairly graphic in detail but shows the evil and the good in the world. And also, there is so much world, plot, characterization that this story really can’t have it all. The romance is really non-existent in this book, except in the sense as a prelude to future stories and in the building of the relationship between Kai and Ryder. But I appreciated that there wasn’t a rush and that Rhys Ford didn’t (perhaps) bow to pressure to include it too early.
I’ve gone the route of deciding to urge you to read this yourself rather than really dig in and explore the book in my review. I would actually love to do that, but there’s honestly just way too much to talk about. And I was really surprised by how well balanced all of that was. I felt like Rhys showed quite a bit of restraint in parts of the book, which makes me eager to see what she’ll write for the sequel… there’s just so much more story left to tell.
I will say that if you might be squeamish about blood and gore this might be a difficult read for you. I was expecting more emotionally intense writing than what I got, but I didn’t expect so many physically intense scenes. There’s one scene that made even me sick to my stomach (which… I don’t know that that has ever happened to me actually), where… Well, all I’ll say is that Kai gets something really nasty in his mouth. And the blood and gore was a few times almost comical, like a Tarantino movie. I really enjoyed that part of it, though some people really might not.
But, in all, this was a really fantastic read. While I applaud the author’s decision to take the romance slow (which is really needed because of Kai’s emotional growth throughout the book), I would have liked maybe a bit more connection between him and Ryder before the ending of the book. It got there, sortof, before the end, but for a book that for most of reading it I wasn’t sure if it even was going to develop into a romance, I wanted a bit more assurance of the direction their relationship was moving in before we left them for a year or however long it takes before the sequel is ready to read.
Beautifully and smartly written. And, I think, one of the best books so far this year. Definitely recommended!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Futuristic, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Action/Adventure, Blood & Gore, California, Dragons, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Graphic Violence, Kai Gracen, Magic, Past Abuse, Post Apocalyptic, Rhys Ford, Self Published, Series, Tattoos, Unusual Creatures, Urban Fantasy
Title: To the Other Side (Terra #1)
Author: SJ Frost
Length: 78k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Alternate Worlds, Magic, Witch, Native American, Alternate Reality Historical, Dragons, Unicorns, Unusual Creatures, Fae/Elves
Rating: Really Liked It
When Garrett Evergard is rescued by the witch, Bryson Summers, he discovers an alternate world unlike anything he’s ever imagined, and when that world is threatened, he’ll do anything to save it and the man he’s grown to love.
Garrett Evergard is a finder of secrets. As a biologist and environmentalist, it’s his job to go into wild lands and uncover their mysteries in order to save them. In the Pacific Northwest, he races against logging lobbyists to save a section of temperate rainforest, but the forest seems reluctant to give up her secrets. Until a fateful meeting with a rare spirit bear opens the door to wonders beyond anything he’s ever imagine, the greatest of those being the beautiful man who comes to his rescue. As a witch and Gatekeeper, Bryson Summers is used to living a solitary life. He lives between two worlds, Earth and Terra, feeling not fully part of either, and dreams of meeting someone who understands him. From the moment he sees Garrett, he believes — and hopes — he’s looking upon a twin soul. Dragons, unicorns, and a witch with enchanting brown eyes, Garrett tries to make sense of a world so different from anything he’s ever known. But his mind and heart are open, and he finds himself drawn more to Bryson with each day they spend together. When Bryson and the gate that links the two worlds fall under threat, Garrett is willing to do all he can to protect them, even if it means facing down dark magic.
I’ve missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost’s non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of her Instincts series. But most of what I’ve read and really liked by this author has been her Conquest rocker series. This is a bit of a deviation from what I’m used to reading from her, but I still found her touch and sense of humor in it, and I found it to be a book that I really liked and, even more, am looking forward to the further books in the series. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and this was a sweet, light-hearted take on the genre, not a dark fantasy by any means, but more along the mood of a fairy tale.
We meet Garrett as he’s hiking through a forest bordering the near-by and protected national forest. He works for EarthQuest, an organization that exposes environmental abuses and government action. This forest is being heavily lobbied to be cut, but Garrett is EarthQuest’s secret weapon, in a way. He travels to places in danger and, as a biologist, looks for species or plant or animal that could become a mascot for protection. What Garrett finds blows his mind. Capturing the tiny dragon-like birds, Garrett is amazed when he sees a spirit bear, a bear with a recessive gene coloring it white and a heavily revered animal by the First Peoples. He knows he can save the forest now, but in trying to get evidence of the bear, Garrett falls into a ravine.
Bryson is called to the scene of a unconscious man by Koda, the spirit bear. Bryson is a witch, the Gatekeeper between Earth and a parallel, symbiotic world called Terra, and spends his time in both places. He can speak to animals, as well as manipulate the natural forces. And the only way he can save the beautiful and injured man is to take him to his home in Terra. It’s against the rules, but Koda tells him that he trusts the man and his confidence as well as the fact that the Floras showed themselves to him leads him to trust the man.
After reawakening in a strange place, the two men get to know each other and at the same time Bryson introduces Garrett to Terra and to his friends, a ragtag group (that will surely become the future main characters of Terra books): Korran, a dragon speaker and protector, Zain, a theif and assassin and all around smartass, and Larkin, a young minstrel who can speak to the dead. Soon, there are not only forces endangering the gate from the Earth side, but also a nearby Duke who is interested in stealing the power of immortality that comes with being it’s keeper, enough to summon another witch to help in his ends.
This happened again yesterday, when I reviewed the first book of a new fantasy series (that was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter) — I end up writing a huge summary for the book. I suppose that’s to be expected if I was actually going to touch on all the points. First of all, I like having a decent summary. I’m not really spoiled by them because I never remember summaries/blurbs when I start the book and I actually put off reading this for a while because I just wasn’t really sure what it was about. Granted, I probably don’t remember those blurbs because I don’t really read them that closely. That’s all my fault! But still, I wanted to give an accurate idea about the book if you’re thinking about buying it. Second, as the first book in a new fantasy series there really is a LOT of setup to be done. In this case, not only do we have to learn about Garrett and what he’s doing on the Earth side, but then we also have to learn about Bryson and the gate and his home, but also about Terra and a whole different way of life there, including the symmetry between the worlds and how they’re connected and why. That’s a lot to introduce, so I don’t completely blame SJ Frost for the fact that the first half of the book was full of exposition. At least it wasn’t dumped on us entirely in the beginning, but drawn out as Bryson and Garrett get to know each other.
No, while I really enjoyed the book and I think that SJ Frost set up a really enjoyable world (though not wholly original still interesting and engaging for those who like lighter fantasy), I still felt like this story was trying to juggle conflicts, between both the Earth and Terra side, which made what ends up to be the major conflict seem slightly underdeveloped. So much time was taken to introduce the world and the relationship that when the conflict started to ramp up I felt like I wished it had been a little more integrated into the story. That isn’t to say that it was totally sudden, and it’s a relatively minor complaint for a story that I really enjoyed.
This story really reminded me of a lot of Less Than Three Press releases, so those of you who are fans of their fantasies will have to check this one out. I’m very interested in the future books, although it is my own preference that I like to not know who the relationships are going to be before their books start. But then, that’s probably bad business 😉 I like SJ Frost’s writing, and I was actually surprised to find this a lot lighter than I’m used to by her. But then, this is fantasy and those were contemporaries. But she’s known for her angst in the Conquest series, and this book was surprisingly light and fluffy, in the best sense of the word.
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Alternate World Historical, Alternate Worlds, Dragons, Fae, Magic, MLR Press, Native American, Series, SJ Frost, Terra, Unicorn, Unusual Creatures, Witches
Title: Dragon Slayer (The Empty Crown #1)
Author: Isabella Carter
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 40k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Dragons, Alternate World Historical, Secrets & Lies, Royalty, Arranged Marriage, Magic, Unusual Creatures, Family Issues, Cliff (small!), Slow Burn
Rating: Really Liked It
Ingram is a coward and weakling—at least according to his father, the king, and the royal court. He cannot use a sword, he faints at the sight of blood, and even his brilliant abilities as a strategist are not enough to overcome his failings. When his father loses a bet to the notorious Lord Mallory over the matter of a dragon slaying, he pays his debt by ordering Ingram to marry him.
Then his father reveals that he is putting Ingram to a greater purpose, giving Ingram one last chance to prove he is not worthless. All it requires is betraying his new husband.
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter’s books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promises to be an in-depth story because it’s the first of a series, but also that I know she likes to really dig into her fantasy worlds. In many ways you can see that this book is a setup, but if you didn’t know it was the first book of a series, I think you’d find that it felt like a whole book. It isn’t just setup, but it does a really good job of giving us the story and leaving the ending open. So yes, it’s important to know that this is the first of a series so that even though you get some resolution, you won’t be surprised that there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
Ingram has become the weakling that his father has always accused him of being. Though he’s learned that nothing he does can make his father — the king of Abelen — proud, he’s found his own strengths. They aren’t in what a prince is expected to be, strong at swordplay, but he has a fine mind and has shown himself to be an expert strategist with the King’s miliary.
Abelen is still growing and recovering from a rebellion little more than twenty years previously. The country and King has become more insular, with the Lords abandoning their keeps to spend most of their time in the capital of Solberg. The royals have grown further apart from their people. But, an old feud lingers from Winterveil, the northernmost region of Abelen. Lord Mallory is a young man, but has inherited the feud. He makes a wager with King Roderick, that if he kills the red dragon who has gone into madness and is killing indiscriminately, that he will wed one of the King’s children. When he brings the head of the dragon to court and Roderick casually gives him Ingram, Ingram is hurt and scared to be thrown away to such a dangerous man.
But more is work in such an alliance, on both sides. The King gives Ingram a mission, one that finds him at an impasse when he learns just how wonderful Mallory is, and how much living in a place like Winterveil is more like home than his own family.
There is so much that I could say about this book, but it really should be experienced while reading it and… honestly there is so much going on in the book, so many characters with each one having their own machinations in place that it was a little hard for me to keep up. This is a book that does well as the first of a series — it holds up. Still, for those of you who like to get a lot of the action and information at once and don’t want to wait for the sequel, you might want to do that this time. Because while I really loved this book and I was totally sucked into it, I also feel like there is a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a second or even third read and will also make more sense after I can read the next book in the series. Hopefully, that will be soon!
I know a lot of you who are fans of Less Than Three Press like I am, and this is really their kind of book, the quintessential LT3 fantasy, though maybe a little less sweet than many of them. Ingram goes through quite a bit of angst about his relationship with his father. It’s tough to watch, not only because I grew to care about him, but also because it makes for difficult reading at times. I want him to realize what is happening to him. But we’re privy to information that he isn’t, and he also has to deal with a lifetime of manipulation by the people around him, the people he cares most about. So, while his choices and thoughts are frustrating, they’re also true to his character.
There’s one more point I’d like to touch on. The relationship between Ingram and Mallory in this book is very light. I imagine that the relationship arc is going to take place over the whole series, so don’t expect much romance in this first book. Mallory does court Ingram, in his own way, but it’s a very slow getting-to-know-you kind of thing. It’s actually very sweet, and it’s a very slow-burn romance.
So, I definitely recommend this one. Unless you want to wait, I say go ahead and get this now and read it. I’m so glad I didn’t wait and decided to read it right away, because it was a really fun read for me.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Alternate World Historical, Arranged Marriage, Cliff-hanger, Dragon Shifters, Dragons, Family Issues, Isabella Carter, Less Than Three Press, Magic, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Series, Slow Burn, The Empty Crown, Unusual Creatures