Having really enjoyed the previous book in this series (and pretty much throwing myself at any book that Grace Draven writes), when I saw this appear on NetGalley, I couldn’t help putting a request in!
So thanks to the author, as well as Ace via NetGalley for the review copy!
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven’t been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They’re wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him–unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire’s twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire’s machinations and his own lethal birthright.
“You should be careful with your kindness,” he warned.
“I’m always careful,” she countered. “Though I’m not always kind.”
This story takes place after the events of Phoenix Unbound, though it’s not necessary to have read that one to get enjoyment from this one. You would get a little context, perhaps, but this one gives a few of the events from the end of the previous volume away though, and so I’d recommend reading Phoenix Unbound first, unless you don’t have a problem with potential spoilers.
This is the story of Halani and Malachus. Halani is a free trader, and has some earth magic, which is outlawed by this empire’s crazy empress. Malachus is a draga, a creature that most think extinct. In this world, a draga mother bites a piece off herself and enchants it to keep her children in human form until they are mature, to prevent them being hunted down as children, when they would be easy prey. Malachus is in search of the piece from his own mother, which was stolen long ago, and is stuck in human form until he finds it… or his magic immolates him alive. You know… that old chestnut.
This one did have a fairly decent plot outside the romantic elements. The insane Empress of the Krael Empire (who people refer to simply as ‘Herself’ most of the time, which I thought was appropriate) had the draga bones that were decorating her throne room destroyed in… a thing that happened (I’m so good at the vagueness), and she would like to replace it with another draga skeleton. Also, the blood from the pre-skeletal draga decor will likely make her more powerful, so, that’s a boon. She has her people out looking for a rumored draga-bone artifact that’s turned up in some of the markets around the empire. Meanwhile that draga bone is the one that Malachus needs to… not explode.
I enjoyed this story rather a lot. Where Phoenix Unbound was a sort of adversary-to-ally-to-lover sort of story, this one doesn’t have Halani and Malachus as adversaries to start out. The romance is a fairly slow burn, with obvious attraction but a pretty good lead up to the sexy bits. ^_^ It kept me reading well into the night, and at work during any break I could take.
I liked Malacus and Halani, and I thought they were adorable together. My favorite character though was Halani’s mother Asil, who is so cheerful most of the time, that it was difficult not to be cheerful with her. She is Halani’s mother, but the roles between them seem reversed a lot of the time, as Asil has an intellectual disability due to a long ago head injury. Asil and Halani’s relationship was also super adorable and I got a touch of the feels from them just as often as I did for the actual romantic partners.
All told, this was a sweet and often touching story of a dragon-stuck-in-human-form and a magical-but-hiding-it woman. Grace Draven has yet again wowed me with this well written story that takes place in a well thought out and well built world. 4.5/5 stars!~