Review: Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Night of Ceremony coverJust days after their wedding, high school teacher and dragonshifter Adrian Kendall and his human husband Josh have new trials to face before the two of them and their newly adopted dragon shifter daughter, Jenny, could settle down to a normal family life. Well, as normal as any family that is made up of a dragon shifter, a human with special gifts and a half dragon shifter adopted baby girl.  Also included in their family is Huntington, Adrian’s brother, Justin and Wells (an ancient dragon and his knight partner) and many others.

The ceremonies Adrian and Josh must face are those of dragonkind.  One to see if Adrian’s clan will accept Jenny as their daughter and the other to see if the clan will accept Josh as his mate  No little stress there. But unknown to all, a much larger event is on the horizon, one that will change the future for the young family and all around them, if any survive the night of ceremony.

I love this series by M. Raiya and this book is an excellent example of why it deserves not only your attention but affection as well.  We have just been witness to a remarkable wedding of Adrian and Josh, their adoption of a half dragon child and the entrance of a ancient black dragon and knight with unknown connections to Adrian and his clan.  Night of Ceremony picks up shortly thereafter, with the celebrants still basking in their happiness.  But Adrian and Josh are also facing many new potential obstacles to their happiness and union, and that would be Adrian’s Dragon Clan.

M. Raiya has been developing a complex wonderful dragon society that exists along side the human one and each book delivers new aspects of the ancient society’s culture and laws.  Like our present world, the society of dragons is slowly being modernized, from their evolving views on remaining hidden to their complex relationships with their knights.  Within every story, the author offers up some new aspect of the changing dragon viewpoint along with a human problem of equal complexity, mostly revolving around Josh and Adrian’s relationship.

I find the author’s characters just amazing, from M. Raiya’s ability to get us into the mind of a nonhuman dragon like Adrian and Justin to one of the more interesting and complicated characters around, that of Josh the increasingly gender fluid husband of Adrian. In Adrian’s inner circle, there are both humans and dragons which gives the author plenty of subjects when addressing the differences between cultures, their views on equality and sexuality.  All of the characters are just so well done here.  Huntington the brother has changed greatly from the first introduction in Notice (Notice #1) when he tried to kill Adrian, the brother he didn’t know he had to the full acceptance of his role as beloved brother and confidant, gifted in his own right with special talents unknown in other dragons. Even the new baby Jenny has enough interesting aspects to her personality that I look forward to new stories involving her development. But there is one that is so special, so remarkable, that I find him hard to describe, a fact he would surely applaud.

That character would be Josh. I love Josh so much and of all of the characters, his is the one to experience the most growth and change of them all.  When we first met Adrian and Josh, they were dating and Adrian was unsure of his feelings for the very “femme”, very flamboyant Josh.  Adrian had always been attracted to masculine gay men and Josh was the very anthesis of that.  Over the series, we have watched Josh wear women’s clothes, apply makeup in a manner that demonstrated a perfected skill and reveal that he is troubled and unsure about his gender identity.  And while we are learning so much about Josh, including his horrific backstory, Adrian is learning about acceptance not only of his own homosexuality and of Josh’s but to come out of the closet in his communities (human and dragon).  M. Raiya’s treatment of Josh, Adrian and their relationship is one of this series shining features.  Here is one of my favorite excerpts.  Huntington, Adrian’s brother, has just realized that Josh prefers to use the womens bathrooms instead of using the mens facilities and wonders aloud to Adrian as to what it means:

“Damn! I mean, I’ve gotten used to having a gay brother.”

I paused and then said levelly, “You still have a gay brother.”

“Yeah, but if Josh is in a dress walking down the street, and God knows he can pull off female, then everybody’s going to think you’re straight!”

“And why do we care what everybody thinks?”

Huntington started to say something, but then Josh walked out of the women’s room, a diaper bag over one shoulder, Jenny on his other, and he tossed his hair back from his face and gave us a dazzling smile.

I smiled back.

After a moment, Huntington did, too. ***

Perfection and nothing more needed to be said.  So many joys to be found in this small gem of a series.  All of the stories that makeup the Notice series are short in length for the most part. Notice has the most pages at 176 pages. But most are under 75 pages in length.  I have listed them all at the bottom of the review in the order they were written and should be read.

Are there issues with the stories?  To be sure as none really exist as stand alone fiction and some are lacking in backstories and world building if not read as part of the series.  But the positive points of the series far outweigh any qualms you might have with other stories in the same universe. This really is a lovely story. A terrific little tale in a gem of a series by an author whose works I continue to look forward to.  Start with Notice and work your way forward.  I think you will find yourself just as affected by Adrian and his Josh as I am.

Here are the stories in the series in the order they were written and should be read:

Notice (Notice #1)

Nice: The Dragon and The Mistletoe (Notice #2) (review included with Notice)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

Night of Ceremony (Notice #4)

Stories in the same universe:

A Dragon and His Knight

Origin in the Shifting Steam Anthology.

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 10th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610404572 (ISBN13: 9781610404570)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=78_85&products_id=3861
seriesNotice #4

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.

Contest Winner, The Week Ahead and It’s Sidecar Time!

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What a great time we had during Series Week.  Great comments and new authors/series for me to investigate and read.  Winner of Primal Red is yganoe! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented.  Two cover artists I forgot to mention were Catt Ford and April Martinez! Love their covers too! Next contest up will be JL Langley week in October to celebrate the release of My Regelence Rake with a series recap, a author spotlight and a book contest for that novel. Plus I will be participating in the Halloween Blog Hop so stay tuned.

Meanwhile Maryland’s rollercoaster weather ride continues.  We hit another record yesterday.  The coldest July day temp ever recorded.  We had a high of 71 degrees F yesterday.  This on top of 6 more records, mostly for heat.  Hottest 100 degree days in a row, hottest day, hottest night…and then the coldest day?  All in the same month?  Climate change, people!  It’s real!

So anyhow, back to the week ahead.  I have been reading some really great books of late, and my review of one of them, Ariel Tachna’s Fallout will be posted on Tuesday. You don’t want to miss this book. So lets get to all the books being reviewed this week:

Monday:                             Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Tuesday:                             Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Wednesday:                       Notice Series by M. F. Raiya

Thursday:                           Pricks and Pragmatism by J. L. Merrow

Friday:                                 Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Saturday:                             Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Now for the summer cocktail of the week.  Nope, still not cooking, more summer cocktails to come:

Sidecar (light, tasty, and packs a punch):


 

 

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 lemon wedge
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cognac
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau or other Triple Sec orange liqueur
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice

Directions:

Spread superfine sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat outside rim of glass. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini or coupe glass and serve.