Tagged: dragon shapeshifters

The Onyx Dragon by Marc Secchia

the-onyx-dragon-by-marc-secchia

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The battle is won, but the war has just begun. Evil stalks the Island-World as the Marshal of Herimor and his Dragon-slaying hordes put nation after nation to the sword. The haunting cry of the Nurguz summons all Dragonkind to their doom. None can resist.

But Marshal Re’akka and his all-conquering Dragon Assassins are not the only trouble on the horizon. For there is a new Dragoness finding her wings, and she will stop at nothing to protect her loved ones. She is Pip the Pygmy Dragon, jungle-born, survivor of seven years in a zoo. She dreamed of being Human. She is more. Much more.

Now, Dragon wings darken the dawn. Diminutive. Sassy. Full of fire and great heart. As Pip and her friends chart a perilous path in search of the secrets of her heritage, they will find a power of old reborn in the smallest of Dragons.

One will stand against evil.

She is Onyx, mighty of paw and deed. She is the laughter of starlight, and she will never allow evil to prevail. Let Dragons thunder! Let the battle commence!

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

After the end of The Pygmy Dragon, Pip was nearly assassinated and the man who was her enemy, Silver, confessed he’s attracted to her. I honestly didn’t think The Onyx Dragon could end on a bigger cliffhanger than that, but it does. But truly, the cliffhanger is just representative of the entire novel: it’s a rollercoaster. And it’s not just a rollercoaster in terms of plot; it’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster as well.

Pip is a great character and here in this second book we see a lot of the good characteristics that led her to succeed in the first book: determination, honesty, loyalty and, most of all, her fierce love for her friends. She really will do anything to protect them and that’s demonstrated in quite spectacular fashion in The Onyx Dragon. I can’t really go too much into plot details without spoiling so many of the twists but let’s just say that the ending was both jaw-dropping but very much in character. One of the parts of the book I liked the most in terms of character development, however, was when Pip had to go find Pygmies near her home island in order to uncover some ancient lore pertaining to her words of power.

Of course, like with the rest of Marc Secchia’s books, the secondary characters are very well developed as well. I’m a huge fan of Silver because I like the whole ‘tortured turncoat’ trope when the turncoat in question goes over to the good side. Although he’s gone over to the good side, Silver still keeps his cards close to his chest and when some secrets he didn’t tell are revealed, his relationship with Pip is tested almost to the breaking point. Speaking of characters, it was also nice to see a young Nak and Oyda and how their relationship progressed because by the time we get to Aranya, they’re already an old couple.

If you loved The Pygmy Dragon, you will adore this sequel. It’s fast-paced, filled with plot twists and great character development and the ending is incredibly emotional. You’re going to need some tissues nearby when you read it, trust me. Honestly, you can’t ask for a better sequel than this. Although Pip’s story seems to be over for now, the choices she makes in this book will definitely play a huge role one hundred and fifty years later in the third book in The Shapeshifter Dragon series, Song of the Storm Dragon. I can’t wait to find out what happens!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Dragon Thief by Marc Secchia

Dragon Thief by Marc Secchia

(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Kal was not a thief. He certainly did not intend to steal any dragon’s treasure.

He was an adventurer. Avid art collector. Incurable wealth adjuster and risk-taker. Kal had legendary expertise in the security arrangements of palaces and noble houses the world over. He hankered for remote, craggy mountaintops and the dragon hoards he might find hidden beneath them. Besides, what harm was there in looking? Dragon gold was so … shiny.

Most especially, he was not planning for any treasure to steal him.

That was a little awkward, to say the least.

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

Dragon Thief starts with our loveable rogue Kal foolishly trying to steal a dragon’s horde and finding a gorgeous, naked woman amongst the treasure.  What’s a rogue to do?  Does he rescue her as well or is this some sort of trap set up by the dragon?  What could a dragon possibly want with some random woman?  Well, as Kal finds out there’s more to the woman than meets the eye because the woman, Tazithiel, is a Shapeshifter.  And although she’s not happy about a thief in her hoard, things take an interesting turn and the two work out a mutually beneficial truce that turns into a friendship, then something more.

Both Kal and Tazithiel have problematic pasts and both have huge trust issues.  Kal has trust issues by virtue of his chosen profession while Tazithiel has a horrific past filled with abuse because of her shapeshifter status.  Yet they come together with a fascinating goal: to find out what’s on the other side of the 25 league tall mountains that encircle the Island World.  Is there a world beyond there containing something other than islands surrounded by poisonous clouds?  What manner of creatures live beyond the Rim-Wall Mountains?  Obviously Kal and Tazi’s journey isn’t as straightforward as they’d like, but they do find answers in an interesting way by the end of the book.

Marc Secchia has brought his trademark painstaking care to world-building once again.  Not only do we learn so much more about various islands and cultures within the Island World, we learn a lot more about dragon lore and the fate of Aranya and the Sylakian Empire.  There are also more technological innovations than we saw in any of the previous books because Dragon Thief takes place 311 years after Aranya, which was the most recent book in the Island World’s long timeline.  I don’t want to give away too much, especially if you’ve read the previous books in the same world, but let’s just say some things have changed tremendously while others will never change.  Especially people/dragons.

While the beginning is a bit slow after Tazithiel decides not to eat Kal on the spot, the beautiful writing style keeps things interesting as the two new lovers work out their issues.  After that, the plot speeds up quite a bit because dragons aren’t exactly the kind of creatures that are welcome everywhere in the Island World.  And once Kal introduces Tazi to some of his friends and associates…let’s just say things get interesting as Tazi discovers a whole difference side of our thief.  Best of all, throughout the book there is Marc Secchia’s trademark humour that had me quite literally laughing out loud at some points.  So while there are some pretty heavy themes in Dragon Thief, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Although there’s no official sequel set, the ending is satisfying yet leaves a little wiggle room if Secchia wants to continue the story of Tazithiel and Kal.  Their actions have some very fascinating implications for our Island World and I can’t wait to see what he does with the new revelation about the Rim-Wall Mountains.

If you haven’t read any of Marc Secchia’s dragon books, Dragon Thief is a great place to start.  It’s funny and touching, fast-paced yet with plenty of character development and there is some incredible world-building going on here.  And if you’re already a fan like I am, Dragon Thief is a great installment in the overall story of the Island World.  It builds on what we’ve seen and learned in previous books and introduces us to both an old friend and a whole new cast of characters to love.  You really can’t ask for more.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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*Not available until Decmber 12, the release date.

**Not available.


Like all of Marc Secchia’s dragon books, you don’t really need to read this one in a particular order.  However, it does help if you read the books in order of publication because of certain minor spoilers that crop up.  Here’s my current recommended reading order:

  1. Aranya (Shapeshifter Dragons #1)
  2. The Pygmy Dragon (Shapeshifter Dragon Legends #1)
  3. Shadow Dragon (Shapeshifter Dragons #2)
  4. Dragonfriend (Dragonfriend #1)
  5. Dragonlove (Dragonfriend #2)

Like I said, you don’t have to read all of these books before Dragon Thief but they will certainly give you a greater appreciation of all of the mythological references contained within the book.  For example, there are references to the Pygmy Dragon, Hualiama and Aranya.  They’re easy to figure out in the context of the book but again, you’ll have a greater appreciation of just how intertwined Secchia’s various series are and how rich the mythology he’s created is if you do.  With that said, if you’ve read the first two Shapeshifter Dragon books you may want to wait until the third is out because there are some minor spoilers in the references to Aranya throughout the book.  And of course the very existence of dragons is a bit of a spoiler considering how dire Aranya’s situation is at the end of Shadow Dragon.

Dragonlove by Marc Secchia

Dragonlove by Marc Secchia(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.

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*Unavailable.

Aranya by Marc Secchia

Aranya by Marc Secchia(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?

Long ago, Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonising, building and warring. Now, the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom–the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.

Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

As with a lot of books I seem to read, I was a little skeptical about this one from the blurb.  It had the potential to be either a totally awesome book or really suck.  Good thing for me it was the former and not the latter, right?

I am just blown away by Aranya.  The plot, the world-building, Marc Secchia’s incomparable writing and the vivid characters all come together to make this book one of the best I’ve read in quite literally years.  Considering the fact that I read around 200 books per year, that’s no small feat either.  Sometimes books take the words quite literally out of my mouth and this is one of those instances (which is why I had to write this review hours after finishing the book, just to process it).

I’ll start off with the world-building, which was fabulous.  Here we have a complex geo-political situation within an epic fantasy world!  There are various alliances and rivalries and each little island on this world has its own distinct culture and history.  Its ruling families are all different, as are their customs and languages.  At the same time, for those of you worrying that this just becomes a political thriller, don’t worry.  Marc Secchia walks the fine line between political thriller and awesome world that has complicated politics (but ones that are not the main focus of the story).  So while his world is excellently built, we never get the backstory dump that sometimes happens in similar works.

And the dragons?  Wow.  I like that despite the impossibility of somehow having more matter when you shapeshift from human to dragon, the overall concept is very well thought out.  There are limitations for people like Aranya in both forms and her dragon form is far from invincible like it is in so many other stories.  She actually has to work at developing her powers, with the help of an incurable old letch, Nak.  And her limitations as a new dragon do significantly hinder her as she goes about her journey to save Immadia and her friends/family.  It’s very well done in my opinion.

As I said, Marc Secchia’s writing is incomparable.  He can not only describe action sequences with the ease of a writer with 50+ years of experience, but can also slow down and write heartbreakingly tender moments.  At the same time, the plot never really slows down.  There’s always something going on, a hint of background tension that forces you to keep reading in order to find out what happens next.  I was sucked into the world of Aranya, feeling everything from the humidity in the jungles of the Pygmy and the cool volcanic climate where Aranya gets kidnapped inadvertently.

Last but certainly not least are the characters.  Aranya and Zip are certainly some of the more memorable characters I’ve ever read about and they defy gender stereotypes left, right and centre.  How many female characters have a serious duel nearly to the death and then become the best of friends?  Not as many as male characters, I can tell you that much.  Both of them are well-rounded and three dimensional characters, but Aranya will always hold a special place in my heart.  She’s willing to leave her family and Immadia behind in order to secure the future of her country, even if it means living in obscure exile for the rest of her natural life.  And she does it with minimal whining as well, accepting her duty to her country.  Does that mean she’ll go down without a fight?  Certainly not!  But she also doesn’t spend all her time pining after every attractive guy who crosses her path and whining about how awful her lot in life is.  It’s quite a novel concept after the many, many YA novels I’ve read with similar concepts that were far less well carried out.

I just can’t recommend Aranya enough.  Even if you’re not big into epic fantasy, I think you can still enjoy this book.  Not only are the characters some of the most memorable I’ve ever encountered, the plot was amazing and Marc Secchia’s writing is always superb.  I just don’t have anything to say but this: buy the book already!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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