Review: Knight of Fire (Terra #2) by S.J. Frost

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Once in the kingdom of Ocassus, humans and dragons shared the lands as allies. That time has passed into legend. But

there’s one who wants to see it return.

Knight of Fire coverHumans have forgotten the fact that it was dragons that agreed to share their lands with humans and not the other way around.  Over  the centuries, mankind has lost their knowledge and respect of the dragons that used to be their allies.  Now in a kingdom where dragons are feared and Dragon slayers are welcome, only a few humans remain that have the ability to talk to dragons, every type of dragon.  One such man is Torran.  Torran is a Dragon Speaker,  gifted with the rare ability to understand dragons.   He has made it his life’s work to rescue and keep safe every dragon that needs him.  And in all that time, he has never met another like him.

Sir Karrick Brenton is a Knight of the Crown, On a mission to unseat a cruel Duke, Sir Karrick met the motley crew of Forest’s End, already at the duchy in the middle of a battle.  Once the evil duke and dark mage are slain, Sir Karrick remains behind with Torran, Garrett Evergard, Bryson Summers,and the rest of the group.  Karrick has never met someone like Torran before.  Both men are instantly attracted to each other but their lives are so very different.  Karrick not only lives in the city of Dragon’s Landing but has secrets that he has been keeping as well. Torran lives in Forest’s End and is constantly traveling.

Torran is requested to come to the capital city of Dragon’s Landing when the King needs an interpreter to speak with the Ancient One, a dragon of immense power whose appearance is needed to crown the king’s successor.  Bryson too is needed when the King’s Gatekeeper goes missing. Once more the group of  friends sets forth on a mission, only this time it includes a Knight of the Crown, Karrick Brenton.  But unknown dangers await them all, and it will take all of their combined powers to defeat a common enemy and uncover the mystery of the missing Gatekeeper.

Knight of Fire picks up shortly after the events of To The Other Side and the destruction of the dark mage and corrupt duke.  The group of friends, Bryson the Gatekeeper and mage, Garrett his lover, Torran the Dragon Speaker, Lark the minstrel, Zain the assassin and the elf, Aleric, are still cleaning up after the last battle with help from the newly introduced Sir Karrick Brenton, Knight of the Crown.  After dispatching the Nightmare back to Hell (a great creation by S.J Frost), the men receive a missive from the King where he requests (demands) the presence of Torran in Dragon’s Landing, the main city of the kingdom.  Normally the group would use the gate to transport to Dragon’s Landing but unfortunately, the King’s Gatekeeper is missing and the Gate is locked.  Only another Gatekeeper can access the abandoned gate and that means that Bryson and crew are coming too.

S.J. Frost keeps a lively pace as her narrative flows from the end of the first novel to the events that spark the next adventure for this ragtag group and the Knight of the Crown send by King Orrin to investigate the corrupt Duke Bartell and the dark mage in his employ. Even from the few scenes Torran and Karrick had together in To The Other Side, it was clear they were made for each other.  Now in a traumatic opening chapter, Torran and Karrick are thrown back together when Karrick saves the Dragon Speaker’s life.  Frost’s ability to create characters that connect immediately with each other as well as the reader shines here with Torran and Karrick.  Torran is instantly lovable with his ability to speak to all sorts of dragons. Torran is subtly handsome and his small dragon companion, Rose, just adds to the picture of a man in tune with his gifts and the creatures he is meant to help.  When Frost introduces Torran to Karrick,a knight at his most heroic,  its clear that these men have much in common, not the least of which is their attraction to each other.   Even though their friendship is newly established, we believe in them and the romance that is almost guaranteed to come.

To access the other Gate, the ragtag little group must travel on the Earth side to the missing Gatekeeper’s cottage, and it is here that Frost’s story takes a humorous turn.  Modern plumbing and hot water are savored by all and the scene with Garrett and Bryson’s companion dragon Wynn in the Earth bookstore is hilarious.  I think that segments like this, where the characters return to the Earth side of a Gate , helps to reinforce the fantasy aspect and otherworldliness to be found on Terra.  One short journey later and the gang reenter’s Terra at the abandoned Gatekeeper’s cottage.  Frost returns to the darker story at hand with a poignancy that will resonate with all readers.  Cara, the missing Gatekeeper functioned almost as a mother to Karrick, and the descriptions of his emotions and memories as they survey the empty rooms are as powerful as they are intimate.

The puzzle of the missing Gatekeeper is just one of the mysteries this group must solve.  Frost introduces us to the Ancient One, a dragon of immense size and power who refuses to speak to the King.  The reasons behind that refusal and the implications for the health of the kingdom will involve all the characters in a plot as full of deceit and treachery as it is of romance and love.  For every lusty, sexy interlude there is sure to follow one full of magic and action.  Frost knows how to whip up a battle filled with fighting knights and a slew of archers, fire breathing dragons of all sizes as well.  There is a hatchling sure to capture your heart and a young scion in need of support and love.  This is a fictional cauldron full of wonderful characters, action packed scenes and couples on the path to romance and their HEA. Truly there is something here for everyone to love.

S.J. Frost continues to build her vision of Terra and its history with each new story in the series.  Knight of Fire adds new layers to its human/Dragon history and mythology as well as expanding on the characterizations of the people we have met and fallen in love with.  With a world full of unicorns, elves, brownies, mages, and more, for me, the real stars here are the dragons.  Tiny floral dragons that act like hummingbirds, white dragons that read bodice rippers, small ruby red dragons with feathers and a lady like sense of decorum, and immense dragons with the wisdom of the ages and everything in between.  They are all here and talking to us.  These dragons have the ability to fascinate even as they grab onto our sense of compassion for their plight.  Dragons and dragon lore will always be popular and here with her Terra series, S.J. Frost has added a wonderful new chapter all her own.

I love this series.  Knight of Fire is charming, fanciful, and a great romantic continuation of the story that started in To The Other Side.  I think both books should be on your TBR list.  If you are new to the series, start with To The Other Side to see where it all began.  For those of you familiar to this great group of misfits and miraculous creatures, than you will be happy to see where the next adventure takes them in Knight of Fire.  Grab them up and start your reading now!

Cover Design by Kris Jacen.   I love the knight on the horse.  What a perfect image for Karrick.

Buy Links  MLR   Amazon  ARe

Book Details:

290 pages
Published April 11th 2014 by MLR Press
original titleKnight of Fire
ISBN139781608209323
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=SJFKFIRE
seriesTerra #2

Books in the Terra series to date in the order they were written and should be read are:

To The Other Side (Terra #1)
Knight of Fire (Terra #2)

Review of A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 5 stars

Varian and Josh are getting married and all their friends are in attendance, Dragons, Knights, and lots of Humans unaware of their magical presence, all have come to see two of their best friends forever bonded.  Varian’s normal nerves of steel are rattled as never before when facing the prospect of a wedding planned by his unpredictable lover, Josh.  And the fact that his brother and best friend won’t look at him while refusing to tell him what Josh has  planned?  Not at good thing at all.  Plus the new age minister that Josh found to marry them is giving off strange vibes to go with the stranger looks he is giving the couple.  Varian’s wedding jitters continue to ramp up, only his love for Josh keeps him safely anchored instead of fleeing in panic.  Now if only he can overcome his natural dragon’s reticence  for speech in time to speak his vows!  What can go wrong next at the marriage of Varian and Josh from the Notice series? Welcome to their wedding where anything that could happen does and a special wedding present to match all wedding presents is delivered to the happy couple.

M. Raiya’s A Sky Full of Wings was my first introduction to this author and the series.  I knew this short story was part of a series I had not read before but ended up loving it even without the first stories to go by.  Raiya fleshed out enough of Varian and Josh’s backstory for me that I did not feel as though I was missing out on too much information.  I loved the characters the author created almost immediately from Dr. Adrian Varian Kendall, a teacher who just happens to be a black dragon and Josh, his human lover who just might be more than he seems but no one appears to  know what that is exactly.  All the elements here are vividly described, from the multilayered characters to a dragon cartwheeling in joy through the sky.

I felt that this story was so well written from the humorous beginning to the end with its unexpected wedding guests and its portents of things to come that A Sky Full of Wings is sending me back to start from the beginning.(note: I have now read and reviewed them. See below)  I don’t feel that it is entirely necessary to read the other books first to love this story as M. Raiya gives the reader all they need here to understand the characters in the wedding party and some of the backstory. This promises to be a great series for me.  I will let you know how it goes. Until then, don’t wait to grab this one up! You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Cover artist Alessio Brio.  I love the dragon in the background, but to be honest, I have no idea what those things are on either side.  If you know, please clue me in as my curiosity is up!

Other books in the series, starting from the beginning are:

Notice (Notice #1) read my review here.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) a Christmas short (my review is combined with Notice – see above)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

Reviews of Notice (Notice #1) and The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya

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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

Rating: 4.25 stars

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.

Review of Midnight (Dance With The Devil #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

Devlin White, Duke of Winterbourne, is the last of a great line of Black Witches.  With the death of his father, his remaining siblings has renounced the black arts for white and left for the new world, only he remains to carry on the family name and glory.   He receives a request from Lord Tamor, demon lord of his land, to investigate the latest draugr sightings in the countryside just outside his territory, far more numerous than ever before.  The vampires whose territory it is refuses demon assistance, preferring that of a renown and infamous witch instead.

When Devlin accepts the mission, he decides to leave behind his beloved ward, Midnight, who he treasures above all. The reason?  Midnight is a draugr as well, a living corpse made by Devlin’s own special magic, and until White can figure out why or who has called these draugrs from the grave, he doesn’t want Midnight close to the problem or Midnight may be influenced as well.

Powerful magic is at work and the culprit clever at hiding themselves and the motives behind their actions.  When Midnight appears on the scene despite Devlin’s orders, he catches the attention of the person behind the draugr attacks.  Then the race is on to find out who is responsible for the draugrs and stop them before they take control of the one being Devlin loves, whether he knows it or not.

Midnight continues our journey through the different territories of the world that makes up The Dance With The Devil series.  Each book contains  either overlapping characters or mentions characters/beings that are central to the next  book.  Midnight’s focus is on the walking dead.  We know them as zombies.  People or beings called from the grave, animated for some or someone’s purpose.  Midnight, the character, of the title is a unique draugr, created by Devlin White himself and another sorcerer, when just a boy.  With snow white skin, blue hair, nails and eyes only to give away his status as a walking dead, he is otherwise perfection to look upon with powers of his own.  He is an innocent among evil or those to whom evil or black magic are constant companions.  Midnight is also deeply in love with Devlin and doesn’t know how to get Devlin to look at him differently.  Every aspect of Midnight will claim the reader’s compassion and instill him into our hearts, so beautifully is he realized. In Devlin White, Derr draws our attention to the witches in her universe and their companions. I loved Devlin White who continues her rolecall of aristocratic main characters.  He is elegant, wry, and aware of his status without being autocratic and  unduly harsh.  He is a wonderful construct   among many here.  I found his feelings towards Midnight especially authentic.  He has raised Midnight since he was a boy.  In the back of his mind, he wonders if his feelings toward Midnight are appropriate, if he is not taking advantage in some way of Midnights total reliance on him.  Devlin recognizes his love for Midnight, but doesn’t want to recognize at what level that love exists.  It is a touchy emotional terrain he has to navigate over and Derr does a wonderful job of helping us understand not only his frustration with their relationship but Midnight’s as well because we get to “listen” to both sides of the argument they are having with themselves and each other. Barra, his man servant, is equally memorable as he is a “wolf elf” to use the term coined by a dragon.  A mongrel who is hurt by the term and gentle in spirit. Barra is such an interesting character all by himself, made more so by his interactions with others, especially a certain knight and his dragon.

Yes, that would be dragon, and where there are dragons, there are also knights, a goblin or two, an angel, imp, vampires, and several sorcerers as well.  Derr throws the whole complement of mystical and supernatural beings at us not only in this story but the entire series.  And each and every being comes through as believable, from their actions to skin color.

Derr’s vivid description extends to her settings, where the mist lies cold upon your face, the rains soak your clothes and the fog obscures the frightening creatures hunting you.  She doesn’t just inform you of the danger but makes you feel each second of every minute of the menace and perils facing our protagonists.  She can make your heart race and your breathe quicken along with Devlin’s as he faces down one opponent after another.  Derr finds subtle ways to endear her quirky characters to you even when they are characters that exist towards the edges of the story.  There is no character or stray plot thread that can ever be considered a “throwaway” in a Derr novel.  Somehow,  someway, that fact, that character will make a reappearance and resolve a plot point you hadn’t considered before.

Midnight is a solid 5 star story in the middle of a wonderful 5 star series.  Megan Derr really deserves such a larger audience for her stories and her talent, both of which encompasses many gifts as well as wild and wonderful elements. From supernatural detectives, a bar where everyone knows your name even if it be mystical in nature, action/adventure stories as told by demons and love lorn vampires, there is something for everyone here.  Start at the beginning or start here.  Just don’t let this series or this book pass you by!

The Dance With The Devil Series.  The first two especially should be read in order:

Dance With The Devil (DWTD #1) – see my review here.

Dance In The Dark (DWTD #2) – see my review here.

Ruffskin (DWTD#4) – see my review here (the switch in order is intentional)

Midnight (DWTD#3)

 

Cover.  The cover by London Burden is just outstanding.  Simple, elegant and with a cohesive design for the entire series.  I love it.