Embers is the fifth and as far as I can tell, the finale book in the Scales ‘n’ Spells series by A.J. Sherwood and Jocelynn Drake. It’s also my favorite as it’s also the one that feels the most successful In balancing out both sides of the series arc. That of dragons and mages.
Where all the other stories have been mage heavy in their narrative, leaving little space for their dragons to be little other than a story support for the mage it’s focused on, here non-binary mage Nikki and red fire dragon Gunter have equal story time. Gunter’s role in Nikki’s road to trust and healing is well documented as is Nikki’s in Gunter’s re-emergence into dragon society. This partnership and it’s growth, while stated in other novels, is clearly shown in operation here and it makes the book.
In fact, Nikki is one of my favorite characters. I appreciate the care that’s taken by all castle inhabitants to ask what pronouns Nikki wants to use and the hilarious interchange with drunk gender fluid dragon Lir during a party.
That dragons are pansexual and accepting of the spectrum of sexuality is a major theme in the series. The fact that Nikki is non binary and should be treated exactly as everyone else as they see no issues with differences in sexuality or gender is also key. To Nikki’s past ( and other mages treatment from their own clans and families) to the way in which they’ve been valued outside of dragon society.
The authors do a wonderful job with this aspect of their series and this novel. So I was a bit disappointed to see that a line editor missed a crucial error here during the dragon game night scene:
“….dungeon,” called out a familiar voice above the din,
and Nikki had to swallow back his laughter.”
Surely, of all mistakes, something like that should have been caught. When it’s been impressed upon everyone that’s their pronouns are they/them.
There are some very good action scenes, thrilling and suspenseful towards the end where there’s a cinematic fiery battle. But , here’s the thing, do the authors want us to treat this final chapter where there’s multiple injuries, deaths, explosions!
But on the flip side … giggling? Some jokes and inconsequential banter. And neither seems to fit particularly well with the other. It’s as though the authors couldn’t decide what atmosphere or overall tone to go for, lighthearted fun or deadly drama, so they did both.
Let’s have sooo many dying…. But I’ll giggle too. Hmmmmm no. If I was the writers, I might have rethought that.
A element I did like? I had wondered previously about the lack of dragon information, background knowledge, including that of the incubators. That bit of knowledge gets filled in here nicely. Babies! And happy endings.
The Scales ‘n’ Spells series was a entertaining urban fantasy series, saving the best til last.
I enjoyed it and will recommend it.
Scales ‘n’ Spells series:
✓ Wish: a Novella
Once upon a time, there was a stunningly gorgeous mage named Nikki.
They were trapped by evil, horrible Jaeggi mages for ten long years until they were rescued by the brave dragon named Gunter.
The grumpy red knight swept in, carrying them off to a fair castle, where they lived happily ever after.
That’s how the story’s supposed to go, anyway. Nikki would really like to have that fairytale ending, please and thank you.
It’s too bad Gunter is oblivious and the Jaeggi are interfering. Nikki may just have to cook up some explosions to help both situations along, because they’re determined to get their happily ever after.
Is there a magic how-to guide on things that go boom?
non-binary MC, Grumpy and Sunshine, it’s basically the air we breathe, Gunter needs a hug, Nikki likes to give them, crippling crush at first sight, Nikki has trust issues, for good reason, Nikki’s determined, Gunter is oblivious, mis-used poetry, Alric and Gunter are once again banned from drinking together, ever, schmoop, wall sex, the tongue thing is awesome, all hail Gunter’s tongue, violence, because bad guys, Nikki feels that explosions are an appropriate response to everything, Cameron and Nikki are explosion buddies, Nikki has mixed feelings on high heels, fairytales do come true.