Updated: Feb 2
This book is not for the faint of heart; it's dark in a really sexual way and includes lots of non-consensual stuff (though not from the main characters) that made me uneasy. There are certainly some scenes that are difficult to read. However, this dragon vs fae world is stunning, and the main characters are broken pieces that I hope will fix each other as the series progresses.
I'm a sucker for sexy dark romance, and this really hits the post.
I waited to write this review because I wanted a clear head and life's been crazy recently. This is easily one of the darkest reads of my life. It's violent and it's psycho, but it's also sexually really dark. There's a lot of sexual abuse and rape in this book, but it's in a manipulative way, rather than an overtly violent way. If that makes sense. And there is no sexual abuse without the growing romance that I've read (currently about to start book two).
This book follows Lysander and Eroan, a dragon shifter and an elf, as they go from mortal enemies to kind of friends (and hopefully loving partners as the series continues). Lysander is the prince of the sapphire dragons, and his mother, the queen, is a raging psycho bitch. And I don't mean that in a cool way. Like, seriously, she needs to die. She sexually abuses and rapes Lysander by manipulating him into thinking he's broken because he's only attracted to men. She forces him to get hard and sleep with the princess of the bronze dragons to form an "appropriate" match. Yeah, it's one of those.
The elves in this book are a poor race of beings who are the enemies of dragons. And there is a special order within the elves whose job it is to kill the sapphire queen. That's where Eroan comes in. An elven assassin who falls for the queen's son. Their romance is hard, but it's super slow. They're not together by the end of the first book, so be prepared to wait for any gratuity.
The best part of this book is how much of each of their lives you really get to see. You get to see Eroan's failed relationship, Lysander's struggle with his sexuality in an extremely closed-off environment, and you get to watch them fall, soar, struggle, climb, and breathe. It's wonderfully detailed.
Eroan struggles after returning from his mission; he really can't assimilate back into normal life, and I found reading this part really hard. There are so many people out there today who struggle with normal life (post trauma, after children leave home, returning soldiers, etc.), and watching someone struggle with this reality is heartbreaking.
Stepping into Lysander's shoes throughout this entire book was hard. There will be readers out there, I reckon, that can't get through this book because of this. You get a front-seat show to his mother's sexual abuse, to the difficulty he has when warring with himself over soul and duty, to the shitshow of trauma caused by everything, and to the small light in his dark world that is Eroan.
*Blows out breath* The world building in this is beautiful. On the whole, it's not too different from other fantasy books: a few magical species, a few geographical locations, a war, and some journeys where you get to see it all. But it's the detail that goes into the atmosphere that blew me away. Anyone can create a fantasy map and travel their characters around it, but it takes real talent to put the reader into the world and have them feel as though they're there (especially in third person), to create that kind of soul-sucking atmosphere you feel when watching a movie for the first time.
There are humans, elves, and dragon shifters in this world, and they're all at war. The elves with the dragons and the humans with both separately. It's a complex world full of clans, species, and blood shed. And I am here for all of it!
This is written in third person past tense that swaps POV between Eroan and Lysander, which is my favourite kind of romance writing style to read. I'll admit, I prefer first person, and I think the only thing that would improve this read for me would be if it were written in first. Other than that, I didn't notice any errors, issues, or other problems when reading. The style was well chosen, well executed, and well designed to fit the genre and target audience: not too overdone with the description, but enough that you get a good sense of place.
An awesome five star read for me! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. I can't wait to dig in to book two. Eeeek!