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Book: “Dragon Unleashed” by Grace Draven
Publishing Info: Ace Books, June 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!
Book Description: 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.
Previously Reviewed: “Phoenix Unbound”
Review:I really, really enjoyed the first book out in this trilogy. Not only was it a great fantasy story (who doesn’t like fire mages??), but it was a great enemies-to-lovers romance. Reading that one, it was also clear who the leading lady was going to be in this one, the mysterious healer Halani whose travelling trade family participates in a side-deal of grave robbing. I was also excited to see what the author did with dragons, another fantasy staple that is a fan favorite. Let’s dive in!
It has been widely know that the last Draga died many years ago. But Malachus knows differently, being the last of his kind. He’s travelled the earth for decades in search of a needed artifact to complete his transformation into an adult Draga, and the longer he is denied the more volatile his magic becomes. After a violent attack, Malachus is taken under the wing of the free trader and healer Halani. As she nurses him back to health, Malachus begins to see that perhaps not all humans are craven, bloodthirsty souls. And for her part, Halani is more and more intrigued by the powerful but kind man with the mysterious past. But as their secrets begin to clash, Malachus and Halani realize they must fight for their own future, either together or apart.
There was a lot to like about this book! While I haven’t been a fan of everything Grace Draven has written (sometimes her protagonists fall short, other times they knock it out of the park!), these first two books have been right up my alley! To start with, I really liked her version of dragons. The Draga are long-lived and, essentially, shape shifters who can turn into powerful dragons at will, though they also have a human form they live in. However, the process to become an adult Draga is a centuries long ordeal and requires a very specific ritual to complete. If it isn’t done, the Draga magic begins to self-destruct. This leaves our hero, Malachus, living life as a very real ticking time bomb.
I also liked the history of the Draga and how that has formed Malachus’s experiences with humans. This is very much a world where history has been told by the winner. When we finally get the truth of things, it’s as heart-wrenching as you might expect. Between this dark history and the fact that a the necessary artifact to complete his transformation has been stolen by craven humans, he looks at the world of humanity with a very cynical eye, seeing the entire race as almost a hopeless case. His story is very much about coming to realize the beauty and kindness that can be found in short-lived humans, as well.
Halani’s story is a bit more straight-forward. She largely plays as a role model of the best of humanity for Malachus. However, we also see her make choices that go against her own moral compass, and the balancing act she is always making with using her powers for good…or just for the good of her greedy leader. There is a particular moment when Halani and Malachus’s worldviews clash where I think she has one of the best lines/small speeches about the care that must be taken when thinking we have the right of things and judging others.
The romance between these two was also a very sweet, slow-burn story. They each begin from a point of basically idolizing the other, and their true love for one another is only born once they are forced to confront the flaws in the other and themselves. That they have lived lives, made choices, and are only complete people for all things taken into consideration, not just the best parts. There was also an intense action scene towards the end of the book that really served as a neat bow to the love story itself.
I really enjoyed this book. I think any fans of Draven’s are sure to enjoy it, and those who liked the first book will definitely want to check this one out. We even see a few familiar faces! I was also able to spot the main characters of the third book, and man, I can’t wait to read their story as well!
Rating 8: A unique version of dragons paired with a sweet love story and you have yourself a great read!