Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven
Series: Fallen Empire #2
Published by Ace on June 9, 2020
Genres: Fantasy Romance
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Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it's far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven't been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They're wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him--unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire's twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire's machinations and his own lethal birthright.
I always wanted to read this author and I enjoyed Phoenix Unbound. While the Fallen Empire series may be labeled fantasy romance, its feel is much more regular fantasy. It has the magic and creatures, swords and crossbows, cruel beatings and tortures, horses, the old kingdoms, and of course, the greedy rulers.
Of course, Dragon Unleashed has a romance. It took me a moment to recognize the group who sheltered Gilene as she left from the seat of the Empire. Our main female is Halani who is a healer and cared for Gilene. Halani is kind, strong and caring. As the story begins, Azarion comes for Gilene. She is sad to lose her friend, but knows her place is with Azarion.
Leaving their campsite to go to her own, Halani comes across a wounded man. She has her people take him back and she works to heal him. Malachus is not very trusting of humans but he is quickly enchanted with Halani, and her mother, Asil. He begins teaching her to read which is something she has always wanted to learn. As he heals, their relationship develops. They both realize once he is healed, he will be back on his journey.
Both of these characters are honorable, but they have secrets and try to hide their magic from each other. Luckily, by the time things go badly wrong, they trust each other enough to work together. I was terrified for all those in this community and Malachus. I was especially worried since Malachus had already been injured and now he would be fighting again.
Halani and Malachus end up in the worst position, but while much of the story is harrowing, the ending is magnificent. I do wonder what happens to Estred and what will happen next in this world. On the author’s website, it says the Kraelian Empire ruled for centuries until three powerful women and the men who love them break it. So I think it means we get a trilogy at least.
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