Buy Link: True of Heart
Author: M.L. Rhodes
Publisher: Amber Allure
Gaige Rizik serves as Captain of the High Guard of the land of Velensperia. The High Sorcerer Byram is battling the draegon rebels and their human supporters who seek an end to Byram’s tyranny and the oppression, poverty, and starvation that have come with it. Byram sends Gaige to infiltrate the rebels, hoping he can find the leader and provide information that will finally allow them to end the rebellion.
Gaige has lost his taste for his job and his support for Byram. Yet he knows that to show anything less than perfect allegiance will result in severe punishment, so he accepts the assignment. Soon he has worked his way into the draegan’s confidence, earning a place as a guard in one of the camps. However, he never expects to fall in love with Kieran, one of the draegans, and is soon caught between the two worlds. The more Gaige gets to know the draegans, the harder it is to ever imagine betraying them. But he can only stall Byram for so long before he starts to realize Gaige’s deception, putting Gaige, the draegans, and innocent villagers at risk.
One of the problems I had with the story is that so much of Kieran and Gaige’s relationship develops off page. The first time we see them together, and in fact the first time we meet Keiran at all, they are already deeply attracted and emotionally connected to each other. It has already been weeks of them getting to know each other and forming a bond that we never see. This development all takes place within the timeline of the story (it is not a pre-existing relationship), but we don’t get to witness any of it. We just hear afterwards that it all happened and how they feel about each other now. From first night we see them together:
Keiran had never wanted anyone with the magnitude he wanted this human. Gaige had become like a drug to him. He was never able to get enough of him when he was around him, and craved him obsessively when he wasn’t.
It just felt very jarring to me, to suddenly have this committed couple, seemingly out of nowhere. I just wish as readers we could have experienced the building relationship as it was happening, rather than being told afterwards that it all had transpired.
I really did like Gaige and Keiran as a couple, however. They were super hot together, but also very romantic, especially once they had committed to one another. Their bond was well depicted and I thought their love scenes were really nicely written.
I had a few other quibbles along the way. Some of the language seemed off to me. Although the era of the story isn’t spelled out, it is clearly a historical (or at least not real life contemporary) timeframe. Most of the time the language reflected this, but occasionally the men would use expressions like “turned on” or “get laid” or there would be mention of using “lube.” These words seemed so modern day world that it took me out of the story to hear these characters use them. I also found myself getting confused at times whose point of view we were getting. Most of the story seems to be told from Gaige’s POV, so sometimes when it switched suddenly to Keiran I got momentarily thrown off.
I found the story entertaining, if somewhat predictable. The heroes were very heroic, and the villains very villainous. But I love dragon stories and I thought the scenes of the draegon camp and their lifestyle were really interesting. Keiran is a wonderful leader, dedicated and committed to his people. Rhodes does a good job showing the differences between his rule of the draegans versus Byram’s dictatorship. And despite his history of violence while serving Byram, by the time we meet Gaige he has completely changed to someone caring and compassionate who becomes dedicated to the draegan cause.
This book is the first in the Draegan Lords series, and I think the book did a good job leaving room for the sequels while still providing an entertaining and complete story. Unfortunately, it didn’t all work for me, but it did leave me curious exactly what Byram is up to and wanting to see our heroes succeed in the draegan’s rebellion.