Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0889-7
Fantasy Romance, 2011
The Dragon Who Loved Me is the fifth book in GA Aiken’s Dragon Kin series. The series has slowly morphed from more conventional romantic tales to an ensemble fantasy comedy romp that just happens to feature romance, so this is one book that should not be read by folks new to the series. You can try if you are new to the whole thing, but it won’t be easy.
For one, there are many characters with similar-sounding names. For example, our heroine is Rhona, the Queen of the Southland Dragons is Rhiannon, and Rhianwen is the daughter of Talaith and Briec. And then we have Breena, who is one of Rhona’s younger sisters, and Brannie, who is… wait, just who is Brannie related to again? You see what I mean? There is a huge cast here, and even I, who have read all the books in this series, occasionally have a hard time remembering who is who.
However, these characters all have a role to play, and The Dragon Who Loved Me is actually the culmination of the story arc that has been building in the last three books. In this one, the fire dragons of the South and the lightning dragons of the North have finally formed an uneasy alliance to fight off the vanguard of the troops of the Iron Dragons. It’s like… I don’t know, the Picts against the Romans, I guess. Like the Picts, our alliance is clumsy, prone to infighting, and lacking in order, but they do make up for their many lacks with their savagery and loyalty to their own kind. The Iron Dragons have the numbers, the strategy, and the troops, and it is most unfortunate that they lack the glorious beautiful berserk mode of our heroes and heroines.
So, when we begin, it’s been a few years and our ensemble cast have mostly been separated. Fearghus the Destroyer leads the troops that congregate in Euphrasia to face Overlord Thracius’s troops while his mate, Annwyl, leads the troops that will meet the troops of the Overlord’s general Lord Laudaricus Parthenius in the Western Mountains. The Iron Dragons have our heroes and heroines caught in a pincer movement, so it is not a good time for Annwyl to mysteriously disappear from camp one fine day. Meanwhile, Keita the Viper has a plan to pull off a daring plan to rescue the children of Annwyl and Talaith from what seems like a dire plot, and she drags, among other suckers, our heroine Rhona the Fearless and Vigholf the Abhorrent. To Rhona, Vigholf is really abhorrent because of his chauvinist attitude and the way he keeps pushing her buttons with ease. To Vigholf, Rhona is an anomaly. Like all Lightning dragons, he views females as the weaker sex, so Rhona’s take-no-prisoners attitude simultaneously excites and befuddles him. Will these two manage to not kill each other during the mission?
I’ve given a very simplified synopsis that only describes a small part of this story, because the rest of the story is a progression of the plot threads built up in previous books, culminating in a very, very over the top but so magnificently breathtaking second half full of girl power to the max. The books in this series have been becoming more and more over the top, and this one is the most out there tale so far. But The Dragon Who Loved Me wins me over the moment it introduces the three creepy children from hell – Talaith’s unnaturally precocious daughter and Annwyl’s crazy twins “with unholy eyes”. I am talking about twins who cheerfully and happily butcher their enemies with bloodthirsty efficiency that they have clearly inherited from their psychopath parents, and the creepy little girl who disposes of the evidence of the butchery; I am talking about them with love swelling in my twisted heart, I tell you. Annwyl is still Annwyl, the crazy murderous she-devil that I want to be when I grow up, but she is in good company as Iseabail, Rhona, Rhona’s triplet sisters, Brannie, and their mothers are in fine form here as ladies who decapitate their enemies without flinching, with full of style. The bloodthirsty wench in me completely approves of such display of girl power, and the men aren’t too bad either as they are equally bloodthirsty and savage as these ladies. But really, in a genre where it’s usually guys who get to charge at the frontlines, this book – this series – warms my evil heart with its unapologetic display of sisters doing it for themselves.
Oh yes, the romance. Well, it’s the least interesting aspect of the story, if only because it’s only a love story. I’m more interested in seeing Annwyl trying to assassinate her enemies, following Izzy as she comes into her own as a character, and watching the antics of the three creepy children. But Rhona and Vigholf have their own share of amusing repartee and slapstick foreplay, and perhaps in a more quiet story, they would have stolen the show instead of having the show stolen from them by the secondary characters who have bigger roles to play in the overarching plot. It is unsurprising that I find the first half of this story far less interesting compared to the second half, because the fireworks and bloodshed truly begin in the second half.
Oh, and do have some patience with the first half of the story. Many of the things in this story – especially Annwyl’s desertion of her army – seem illogical at first, but eventually, it will be revealed that there is reason to everything in this story. I’m not saying that these characters are being reasonable – that word doesn’t exist in the personal dictionaries of the folks in this series – it’s just that the story isn’t that unreasonable, if I am making sense here.
At any rate, I really love the second half of this book and I wish the first half has been as strong as that second half. Still, this one is a really fun read. It is hard for me to resist a story as defiantly and cheerfully over the top and bloodthirsty as this. By the time I find myself feeling all warm and happy inside after reading about how our couples from this and previous books finally are able to enjoy some peace with each other – for now – I realize that I am a hapless sucker where these dragons and crazy humans are concerned. This book could easily be the end of the series, but I hope there’s more to come because I’m not ready to say goodbye to these crazy folks.