Rating: 4.25 stars
Adrian Varian Kendall has always prided himself on his ability to keep his three lives separate from each other no matter how intense his life got. High school teacher, dragonshifter, and gay male, elements of himself kept partitioned due to necessity and security of those around him. Then he receives notice while teaching class, a clear message from a Knight to meet in battle but Varian doesn’t know which student left him the message. Suddenly the walls between his separate lives collapse, as the Notice poses a threat not only to the dragon families Varian protects but to his human lover, Josh, as well.
Thousands of years ago as the Knights threatened all Dragonkind with extinction, Dragons hid by taking human form and vanishing into the human populations around them. Now this one Notice threatens to bring all dragons out of hiding, expose them to the human world, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from groups of Knights determined to kill them once and forever. Varian’s lover, Josh, has no idea that he is living with a dragon and the stress of hiding his true nature from Josh is straining that relationship to the point of breaking. Every part of his life is now under attack and Varian will do anything necessary to bring about a peace, even if he make sacrifice himself.
I have always loved dragons so a story about dragonshifters hits quite a few of my buttons. M. Raiya does a wonderful job of meshing dragon lore with contemporary reality to give us a really neat twist on the old Dragon and Knights story. Here the conflict between Knights and Dragons has carried through the ages even as both groups have undergone changes to adapt to the modern world. In the past the Knights greatly outnumbered the dragons and almost brought about their extinction, killing vast numbers. To save their species, some dragons disappared, and some took humans as thralls to help them exist only to disappear themselves too. The rest took human form and quietly melded into human communities, dragon traditions and teachings fading as the centuries passed. Raiya gives us a wonderful backstory without taking away from the action adventure story being told.
I loved the characterizations as well especially Varian and Josh. Varian is a complex character in love with a human whose background and personality exceeds his own in intensity and dimension. Varian loves teaching and has a protective nurturing nature which is at odds at the fighter/killer the Knights force him to be. He has kept his true form and identity from Josh and that has stifled his relationship. He is still young and makes mistakes that comes from lack of experience in relationships and maturity. Josh is flamboyantly gay, from his makeup and glittery clothes to the sexual art forms he creates. Josh is almost defiantly feminine which stems from an abusive background and parents determined to beat him straight. I loved Josh who asks to be accepted for who he is even if he is not sure what exactly that is himself, just a great character who provides both heart-wrenching angst and surprising abilities. Huntington is another person full of endearing qualities that just enlists the readers sympathy even when you aren’t sure he is deserving of it. Only one character disappointed me and that was due to not fully basing him in the plot as strongly as he should have been considering the impact his betrayal has on everyone later on. His motive was never clear nor his backstory told so that his actions never made that much sense to me. I don’t want to be more specific so as to not give away spoilers for the plot. But that was a hole I felt remained for the rest of the story.
I also had a few quibbles with some editing errors in the story, including a homonym that stopped me cold. Here Josh says “plaintively. “Can I be a terrible boar” instead of “bore”, something an editor should have caught. But overall, M. Raiya gives a fantasy story of dragons, Knights, and the enduring power of family and love.
The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya
This is a Holiday Sip from Torquere Press featuring Varian and Josh from Notice. It is their first Christmas together and Varian realizes the importance of choosing just the right gift for Josh, one that will show Josh how much Varian loves and treasures their relationship. Varian has grown tremendously since Notice and M. Raiya let’s us in on Varian’s thoughts on their time together and the current status they have worked so hard to achieve since the events in Notice. It is a heartwarming tale, perfect for anytime of the year and an enjoyable visit with a couple I came to love in the first book.
The first cover is by Alessio Brio. I had a problem seeing the black dragons flying on the cover due to all the darkness (or maybe just my poor eyesight). I just wish there had been a little more contrast so the dragons would be easier to pick out.