Tagged: ardan

Song of the Storm Dragon by Marc Secchia

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Storm is coming! The hegemony of Sylakia has been broken and freedom won, but at a shattering cost. Laid low by the vile Shapeshifter pox and Thoralian’s wiles, can Aranya rise again? For war sweeps Herimor at the touch of the Marshal’s evil claws, and he will stop at nothing to possess the ultimate power.

Now, the race is on to find the First Egg of the Ancient Dragons. Accompanied by her friends Zuziana and Ardan, and the magnificent Land Dragon Leandrial, the Star Dragoness must dive deep in her new quest. Cross the uncrossable Rift-Storm to Herimor. Stop Thoralian. Crush his ambitions. Only then will she be able to save her beloved Dragons.

Yet profound Dragon lore enshrouds her purposes. History beckons. What are the secrets of the powerful Dragonfriend and the tiny, lost Pygmy Dragoness? Why did the Dragons disappear? What became of the powerful Dragons of yore?

Arise, o Storm Dragoness! She is legend. She is the whisper of starlight upon Dragon scales. She is Aranya, and this is her song. The Song of the Storm Dragon.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

So not only do we finally get a glimpse of the mysterious Rift in the southern Island World, we get to see Herimor.  If you’ve read the past two books in the Shapeshifter Dragon series, you know that Herimor is populated by Chameleon Shapeshifters and assassinations with various creative poisons are just a fact of life amongst the upper class.  It sounds pretty terrifying and strange but as we learn, it’s not all bad.  And not all of the Marshals are as bad as their reputations.

What I liked about finally seeing Herimor was that it showed more of Marc Secchia’s incredible world-building.  Herimor is populated by so many different species of dragons from the intensely creative Thunderous Thirty to the absolutely ludicrous Metallic Fortress Dragon.  (Yes, I know they were engineered by the Dragon-Lovers but they’re still ridiculous.)  Aside from the occasionally ridiculous dragon species, I was really impressed by Herimor.  From the variety of species to the moving islands, it really is incredible and is the perfect setting for the final showdown against Thoralian.

Aranya really undergoes a journey throughout Song of the Storm Dragon.  She has lost one of the things that defines her to other people: her physical beauty.  She was tortured by Thoralian and now has to deal with the aftermath of that.  And while overthrowing an empire isn’t easy, what comes after is often harder as she and her father try to manage the transition of power.  After decades of Sylakian rule on some islands, how can they go back to their own system of government?  What about the Dragon Shapeshifters that were rescued from Thoralian and his monstrous family?  Where will they go and what will they do?  These are hard questions with unclear solutions that will have to be dealt with while Aranya and the gang race Thoralian to Herimor to stop the First Egg from falling into his clutches.

Add into this whole mix the tension between her and Ardan.  Aranya definitely feels conflicted about her relationship with Ardan, especially after Thoralian’s torture disfigured her entire body.  While that may feel shallow, you have to remember that while she’s brought down an empire, she’s still only seventeen years old.  Being a teenager is hard enough without going from ‘so beautiful men can’t ignore you’ to ‘everyone young and old recoils when they see your face’.  On top of this, add in the fact that Ardan and Aranya’s meeting and oath swapping was pre-determined by Fra’anior himself and the two of them had very little choice in the matter.  If you’re looking for a neat ending to wrap up all of these problems, you won’t get it in this third book.  Marc Secchia is the master of ambiguity and ethical/moral grey areas so of course nothing is all that simple although both Aranya and Ardan get a little closure by the end of the novel.

The plot was fast-paced and complex with some heart-wrenching plot twists, particulary toward the end.  Still, despite the sort of cliffhanger ending it was satisfying on an emotional level and it did resolve some major plot points.  Basically, most of the main questions raised at the beginning of the book are answered by the end but there are still enough questions remaining that I’m going to be pining for the fourth book that’s coming sometime in 2017.

If you loved the previous two books, you’re going to enjoy Song of the Storm Dragon.  I can’t wait to see what happens next in Aranya’s tumultuous life.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Shadow Dragon by Marc Secchia

Shadow Dragon by Mark Secchia(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Chameleon Shapeshifters, uncontrollable storm powers, and the rise of Sylakia’s Dragon-elite. The battle against evil scales new heights, but the price of victory grows ever dearer.

Once, a Shadow Dragon ravaged the Island-World. Insatiable. Unstoppable. A Dragon-killer. Now the Shadow Dragon has reappeared, on a collision course with Aranya and King Beran’s campaign to liberate the Islands from the scourge of Sylakian tyranny. He is dark, beautiful and deadly, a predator of untold power.

Meantime, Thoralian weaves his web of guile and betrayal right in the hearts of Aranya’s friends and allies. He will bring them to an encounter only he can win.

Incredible aerial battles. An Ancient Dragon bent on enslaving Aranya. The treacherous secrets of Dragon magic. This is the fight for which destiny has shaped a heroine of rare courage–Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Criminal. Shapeshifter Dragon. A woman who will confront evil at any cost. Spite her at your peril.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

As you may or may not remember if you’re a regular reader of my reviews, I absolutely gushed about Aranya.  It had everything: solid and inventive world-building, a cast of characters you couldn’t help but love and a fairly fast-paced plot despite being largely character-driven.  I think I was understandably a little worried about Shadow Dragon because how could it live up to my expectations, let alone keep up the high quality of the first book?

In the end, I didn’t need to worry so much.  That unpredictable and fast-paced plot remained, the world-building was even better and I really felt for all of the characters.  It’s also a good thing I read The Pygmy Dragon first.  You don’t have to read the spin-off first but let me just say you’ll appreciate some of the plot elements way more if you do.

What I really enjoyed about Shadow Dragon was that aforementioned unpredictable and fast-paced plot.  With Aranya and her father King Beran waging war on Sylakia there are surprises around every corner and there’s nothing Thoralian wouldn’t do to stop their rebellion.  Yolathion, who has now joined the Immadian cause, is sort of a wildcard in the whole mix because although he did betray Sylakia for her, he still carries many of the attitudes from that country with him.  He doesn’t approve of things like Aranya fighting all of the time, her wearing trousers as a more practical alternative to wearing dresses during fighting, etc.  It can be extremely infuriating, just like the actions of some other characters I won’t mention, but Marc Secchia is playing a deep game here, folks…nothing is as it seems!

Where can I start with the characters?  Aranya of course is still as awesome as she was before only this time she’s helping Zip cope with her new found powers as well as dealing with the Yolathion issue.  And she’s fighting a war, which sort of puts all of the personal drama on the back burner a lot of the time.  In the first book, Aranya is a sort of spoiled Immadian princess who matures into a young woman who wants nothing more than to use her Dragon powers against Sylakia.  In the second book, we see more of a tempering of her character as she goes through trial after trial and heartbreak after heartbreak.  I don’t want to give away too much but by the end of the book, the change in Aranya is startling and very believable given all that happens to her.  Will she be able to overcome these new personal demons to defeat Sylakia in the third book?  It’s hard to say, honestly.

On a side note, one of the things that I really enjoy in Marc Secchia’s novels is that he writes incredible female characters.  Not just Aranya, but Zuziana and Kylara and even Pip from The Pygmy Dragon spin-off.  Unlike a surprising number of male writers, he makes sure that they all have believable motivations and unique personalities; they don’t just exist for the gratification of the male characters.  Yes, they have romances and relationships but they’re not the sole motivation and/or focus of the characters.  And not only that, all of the characters come from such diverse backgrounds and cultures.  There’s actual racial and cultural diversity in his novel!  Sometimes there are tensions between cultures and yet sometimes there are interracial relationships.  It’s actually kind of shocking to see such diversity in fantasy and it’s done in an unforced, believable manner.

Aranya isn’t the only main character in this novel.  We get to meet the mysterious Ardan, a man who wakes up stark naked under burned prekki-fruit tree and falls into the hands of the fearsome female warriors of the Western Isles.  He remembers very little from his past so his journey with the warriors is interesting to say the least and at times his banter with them is quite funny.  But of course in Shadow Dragon there’s a darker side to everything and as I said before nothing is as it seems in this book.  There’s far more to Ardan than meets the eye and once he meets up with our main cast of characters, the Island World will be shaken to its core by the changes he brings.

The world-building is…there are really no accurate adjectives to describe how awesome it is.  Of course there are the Dragons we met in the first book when Aranya transformed into one but we don’t know much about their history.  Why did they essentially vanish after the Second Dragon War?  And why did the Pygmy Dragon seem to do something to alter the memories of Nak and Oyda, who took part in the war?  And what is everyone to do now that there’s a Shadow Dragon loose in the Island World?  In this second book we do learn so much more about the history of dragons and the extent of their abilities in part because Aranya discovers she isn’t the only dragon outside of Thoralian’s immediate family.

Since Beran and Aranya are waging a running war against Sylakia, we also get to see a lot of the different kingdoms in the Island World, including Jeradia.  When we go to these islands you can tell just how much effort Marc Secchia has put into his world-building because all of the cultures we meet have their own history, customs and ways of making war.  Some greet Beran’s forces as liberators and others fight almost to the death which makes it far more realistic than having Aranya and her father go from island to island, liberating a jubilant populace every single time.  As I noted in my review of the first book, the Shapeshifter Dragons series nearly veers into political thriller territory simply because of how complicated the plot and world-building are.

Here in Shadow Dragon, you have everything you could possibly want in the second book of a series you love: no plot drags (particularly in the middle), believable and three dimensional characters, an expanded fantasy world and so many plot twists you won’t see the end coming.  You can’t ask for more and if the blurb or anything I’ve said in my review has intrigued you, I can’t encourage you enough to go try out the first book, Aranya.  You’re pretty much guaranteed to love it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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