A Gathering of Dragons, Book #2
Heat Factor: Lots of non-penetrative sex
Character Chemistry: “I love you so much that I will sacrifice myself to save you!” “Don’t do that, I will sacrifice myself to save you from sacrificing yourself!”
Plot: Second-chance forbidden romance plus a road trip to kill a demon
Overall: This one is capital-R Romantic.
What do I mean by capital-R Romantic? I mean extremely emotive, self-sacrificial doomed love vibes. Byron listening to Beethoven while writing sad love poetry.
You see, Lizzan and Aerax have a doomed love. Aerax is the heir to the throne of Koth, an isolated island nation. Lizzan was his childhood best friend and one true love—until she was the only survivor of an attack, and was therefore exiled. It must be noted: Koth has very rigid rules about exile and belonging. Unless your name is written in the book, you do not exist; in fact, Aerax, who is illegitimate, did not exist under Koth law until he was a teenager and the legitimate heirs died. Lizzan’s exile is extremely painful for her, but she accepts it because to continue to live in Koth as a person who had been removed from the book would cause harm to her family. (As you can see, the self-sacrifice has begun already.)
There’s a lot of complicated religio-political stuff going on in the story, which is interesting and I’d love to talk about it with you, but in this review, I’m going to focus in on the romance. Aerax and Lizzan are reunited purely by coincidence when Aerax is sent on a mission to ask for aid. Lizzan is not super-thrilled to see him—she’s carrying a lot of hurt around that whole exile thing. By the time she gets over her anger, she has a new problem: because of a prophecy, she is convinced that she will die during the next snowfall.
Enter the Romantic stuff. Both believe that the other intrinsically makes the world a better place. Both are therefore willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other. And both eventually get very lovey-dovey about taking advantage of every moment they have together, so that we get exchanges like this:
“I want nothing more than to be with you until that day comes. After all the time we have waited and wasted. Aerax—if we only have until the first snowfall, I will take it, and be glad of every moment.”
“It matters not how quick or slow the days are. No matter what happens in the battle ahead, and even if every day afterward is sent with you, never will there be enough of them.”
There is a lot of angst and a lot of cheese. I found it tiresome, but I know that other reviewers found it very romantic. In short: reader, know thyself, and what you like in a romance.
A few notes on the non-romance side of this book:
- It really expands out the world of A Heart of Blood and Ashes. In the first book, the land they traverse seems huge; now we learn that Maddek and Yvenne were jockeying for power in a tiny parochial corner of a much larger world. So that was fun.
- While there’s a lot of plot in this book—that whole road trip to kill a demon includes several side-trips—it’s not as tight as A Heart of Blood and Ashes. I found it lacking in the propulsive forward motion that made the first book so readable.
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