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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Whenever I decide to explore more fantasy, I’m looking to you, Anne! Intriguing review and that is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen?
I know the cover is awesome. And I don’t pay attention to covers much of the time. OK. There are some different areas in fantasy, and I mean straight fantasy, not urban fantasy or fantasy romance. Some are lighter or darker, some are more complex. So it depends on what you want. Urban fantasy is my favorite but it does often have overall story arcs which take several books to tell.
It definitely sounds like there will be a third book, I missed that part about three powerful women. It also took me awhile to connect the cross over characters from the last book, but I thought it was well done.
Yes it is well done. Sometimes when the books are a year apart or so, I have to work a bit in my head. I read the 3 women part on her website. I now am wondering who that woman is and when that book is expected. Estred (too young?) Siora?
I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the series. I passed on the first one because I kept hearing about how gritty it was. If much of this story was harrowing and had cruel beatings and torture I know this wouldn’t be for me.
Yes “historical” fantasy is often brutal even when there is romance. Women often are raped and have few choices. It can be a rough genre to read at times. This has more romance than most fantasy but it still has that gritty side.
I like dragons and I like romance!! This sounds really good!
It is really good! I would start with the first one because they are connected and you would understand more about the world. But I am pretty OCD about reading series in order.
Great review. I’ve got my eye on this series.
Dragons! You should definitely read it! But start at the beginning of course.
I liked this one too Anne. While Phoenix Unbound resonated with me more I did like the characters and the story.
Phoenix Unbound felt a bit more complicated plot-wise to me. But I really enjoyed both.
I really enjoyed the first book, and like you, thought it felt more light a straight up fantasy novel than a romance as it was billed. That was fine–I like both. 🙂 I am eager to read this one and am so glad to see you enjoyed it!
This one doesn’t feel as complicated in plot as the first one but I did enjoy it.
I am 50% into this one, so I didn’t read the review, just wanted to see your rating. I adored the first book, and am liking this one so far, too.
I often save emails to read or put things on Feedly to read later if I am reading the book soon, and then try to get back to it later. This one didn’t feel as complex. I liked them both.