(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
When a woman loves a Dragon, that love will change the world.
Six years have passed since Hualiama and Grandion defied the Island-World’s most sacred law. They burned the heavens together as Rider and Dragon. For his crime, Grandion the Tourmaline Dragon suffered exile and imprisonment. The Dragons forced Hualiama to forget her past.
Now, the suns must set upon the age of the Ancient Dragons. Amaryllion Fireborn, last of his kind, bequeaths Hualiama an astonishing legacy. She is the Dragonfriend. Raised by Dragons. Burned by Dragon fire. Oath-bound to a Dragon. Crossing the Island-World in search of her Dragonlove, she will forge an indelible mark upon history.
As war between Dragons and Humans engulfs the Islands, Hualiama must unravel the secrets of her tragic past in order to confront an evil that threatens the very existence of the Dragonkind. For love that is tested in the crucible of fate must burn, or die.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
In the beginning of Dragonlove, Hualiama is definitely not herself. Or, rather, she’s not the person she was six years ago when she and Grandion put down a coup on Fra’anior led by her own father, Ra’aba and the dragons. Normally, this would not shock readers because this second book takes place a full six years after those events. Of course people change! But what’s missing is Hualiama’s pure love and determination when it comes to Grandion, the Dragon that she defied sacred law for. At the end of Dragonfriend, Hualiama had her memories wiped by the powerful Amaryllion Fireborn in an attempt to make things easier for her by not letting her remember that she and Grandion were in love, not just friends. But before his death here in Dragonlove, Amaryllion restores those memories and sets Hualiama on a quest that will irrevocably change the Island World.
As with before, Hualiama is an amazing character. With her memories back her love for Grandion is just as strong as ever and she’s willing to not only defy sacred law but defy Dragons for it. She goes to the ends of the Island World during an all-out Dragon war in order to find him, risking death at every turn. At the same time, despite her love for Grandion, Hualiama most definitely has her doubts at times. What if Grandion will never forgive her for abandoning him to the will of the Dragon Elders council, who set him an impossible quest that he would have to complete in order to restore his honour? Can the Island World ever forgive Grandion and Hualiama for profaning the sacred laws by daring to become Dragon and Dragon Rider? The answers aren’t straightforward and Hualiama goes through so much on her quest as she learns about her past and about Dragonkind in general. She also learns that not only did Amaryllion give her his inner fire before he died, she carries a darker power within her from her erstwhile caretaker Ianthine. I don’t want to give too much away, but Hualiama’s inner powers that she discovers along her journey are part of how she changes the Island World forever. Particularly with the ruzal, the power that binds magic to words and allows practitioners of it to shape the very world that they live in.
The plot of Dragonlove was absolutely amazing. Not only is it driven by memorable characters like Hualiama and Grandion, it has many, many twists and turns. For example, the introduction of some new dragon subspecies, ones that are seemingly either extinct or hidden by Pip’s and Aranya’s times in the other series. We also learn quite a bit about magic and human magic-users like Hualiama and others who harness the magic drifting all around the Island World. And of course there’s a huge surprise at the end of the novel during the final battle that sets up the third and final book, Dragonsoul. (Well, there’s actually more than one surprise at the end if I’m honest but one was more earth-shattering than the other.) Even though Dragonlove is slightly over 500 pages, you’re also never bored because Marc Secchia keeps it fairly fast-paced throughout. The beginning is a little slow as Hualiama re-learns about Grandion and sets off on her quest to find him, but things quickly get interesting when she finally finds him and discovers he’s not the same person (Dragon?) he was six years ago either.
One of the things I’ve liked about Marc Secchia’s books is that he always has a realistic view of war. There are a lot of wars going on currently in Hualiama’s world between not only Dragonkind and humans but Dragonkind and itself. He presents a picture of war that is of sheer brutality and strife. Civilians are caught unwittingly in the crosshairs or, worse, are deliberately targeted by one or both sides as a way to gain an advantage over the other side. What’s most realistic of all is that no one really comes out unscathed from these wars. Without giving too much away, Grandion himself has physically changed in a very drastic way. Hualiama has scars all over her body not only from when her own father tried to kill her but also the myriad burns and scrapes she acquired amongst Dragonkind. Neither Dragon nor Rider escapes the psychological implications either. And that brings me to the larger point I’m trying to make here: for all that this is fantasy, Marc Secchia has a dedication to truth. He brings to life three dimensional characters with realistic motivations and places them in a world governed not only by magic, but by natural laws as well. The technology present in all of his books is well thought out and there are even laws governing the use of magic that place restrictions on even the Dragons. And best of all in my view, he’s practically invented Dragon anatomy as a hobby so he can bring these mythical creatures to life in a consistent and dare I say realistic way.
Basically, I absolutely adored Dragonlove and will eagerly await the third book in the trilogy, Dragonsoul. This second book had everything I expected and more: memorable characters, a fast-paced plot, lots of twists and turns and world-building of the highest calibre. You really can’t go wrong with the Dragonfriend Trilogy.
I give this book 5/5 stars.