Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Since his mother died, the victim of an attack by a powerful vampire, Rafael “Fell” Harwick, has been living, no hiding, in his cabin deep in the woods. A half incubus and witch, Fell is considered a hybrid that other supernaturals avoid, either because of his incubus half or the fact that he’s a witch. Fell only goes into town when he needs to feed and that is infrequent because Fell hates feeling like a whore who needs the sex act to exist. Fell also doesn’t want to draw attention to himself and his location. Then a trio of shifters is pursued by humans to his doorstep and his world changes forever.
Humans aren’t supposed to know about supernaturals yet three shifters are being shot at and grievously wounded by a group of human hunters. Someone has broken the Silence and there will be hell to pay from the Immortal Council and their Keepers of Silence who enforce their laws. Despite Fell’s determination to remain hidden and apart, he goes to the aid of the shifters and uses his magic to help them.
Now revealed, Fell is pulled into a supernatural resistance group trying to bring down the very vampire who killed his mother and who wants him in his power. But acceptance is hard to come by as one of the shifters hates incubus and the other is a emotional mess. And even their leader doesn’t trust Fell because he’s a witch. Despite everything Fell is determined to go on…until one last piece of knowledge is revealed. One of the people Fell is helping will also be the one that kills him. What’s a half incubus and witch to do?
Death by Dragon by Madeleine Ribbon is the third book I have read by this author and it’s the best yet! Ribbon’s world building is marvelous and sets the foundation for the numerous clashes and supernatural relationships to come. Supernaturals and Immortals exist along side an unaware human population, divided by stringent laws that make it very clear that humans are not to know that the others exist. Those who break the “Silence” as the law is called, are hunted down by the Keepers of Silence, something to be avoided at all costs. Yet someone has broken or is bending the law as much as possible in order to obtain as much power and gain as he can. Already the tension is high between all the characters within the story. They can be found on all sides of the magical partition and even often straddle the boundaries laid out between various supernatural factions and families.
Caught in the middle while doing his best to remain invisible is Fell Harwick. Isolated by his circumstances and orphaned by violence and need, Fell is that character whose vulnerability and appeal immediately draws in the readers. We fear for the precarious situation he finds himself in and love his strength and determination that spills out even when fear and pain overwhelms him. Fell is a marvelously endearing character and I loved him and hated what was to come. And there is a ton of bad stuff ahead. As Fell is also part seer he knows (although the readers keep hoping not) that he will be unable to avoid the path already laid out for him. Ribbon takes this slight, angst filled young man and turns him into someone truly heroic by the end of the story by way of ordeals he endures and the travail that follow.
Just as there are layers upon layers to Fell’s character, the same hold true for the two shifters he saves, Jett and Theodore, members of the local resistance group. Opposite from each other in every way, from physique to emotional stability, they even differ on how they interact and accept Fell and Fell’s true nature. Truth be told I never liked Theodore much, understood him yes, liked him no. But Jett? There’s a character I adored, even when I wanted to throttle him for his stubbornness and rigidity. Ribbon has a whole slew of characters here to act as support for her plot and main characters, some are fully fleshed out, others disappear and you won’t miss them. But those characters that stick in your head, like Corran does, are ones that you will want more of at the end of the story.
Madeleine Ribbon keeps building various Venn diagrams within her layered plot, groups set apart by their nature, groups set apart by their political aspirations and schemes for power, groups set apart by family and groups set apart by relationships. Then Ribbon builds in stress, horror, pain, and suspense where each overlaps the other(s). There will be murder most foul, and even scenes that border on torture. Love, longing, and hot sexy scenes as well to offset the horror that arrives on its heels. Yes, my stomach did a flip flop or three in various places in this novel. I’m betting yours will too. Why? Because these beings become real and the readers, myself included, will find themselves full invested in each characters current circumstance (usually beyond precarious) and in agony over their futures, including if they are to have any at all. That Fell knows who will kill him is one of the overriding threads that will have you in tears. Her descriptions and vivid imagery will haunt you long after the story is done. Trust me on this.
Only the ending left me wanting more. More of the Keepers and more of what comes next for the characters involved. It felt a little unfinished and I’m hoping that’s because the author has more in store for us and this universe that’s so captivating and addictive.
Not familiar with Madeleine Ribbon? Death by Dragons is a wonderful place to begin your acquaintance. Love romance and shifters? Here is a terrific story for you! And yes, here be Dragons, dark, fierce and utterly memorable. I highly recommend this story to all. Grab it up and start reading today.
Cover artist:Syneca Featherstone. Not a fan of this cover. There were so many wonderful elements to draw on and this is the one she choose? Uh, no.
Kindle Edition, 283 pages
Published February 16th 2015 by Loose Id LLC