Title: Mate Hunt
Author: Amber Kell
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Although a wealthy prince, Joriah Eprion has has no interest in politics and prefers to work behind the scenes trying to stop the slave trade and fund hospitals and other goods deeds. So he is not thrilled when his father tells him it is time to make a good strategic match. Jory is even more shocked to find his father is sending him to Dragait, the dragon planet, to form this alliance. The king believes Jory’s brother is out to kill Jory to prevent competition for the throne when the king dies. So Jory’s father wants him far from home where he will be safer.
Dragait is having their annual mate hunt, a formal event where men, women, and dragons alike register to try to find their mate. Upon arrival on Dragait, Jory is instantly drawn to (and immediately has sex with) Duke Valer Klarian. Val believes Jory is his mate and marks him as such. However, the mate hunt rules require first timers to have sex with at least two potential mates, and when Jory meets Rai at a club, he begins to fall for him too. Hunt rules also prevent entrants from sharing personal information, so Jory has no idea that Val is a duke, or that Rai is actually King Raiston. As Jory develops feelings for each man, he wonders whether he can bear to give up either man when his true mate is finally revealed.
So, let’s see, what worked here for me. Well, I liked Jory and thought he was an interesting guy. Not just a (very) pretty face, but also someone who cares a lot for others and is willing to stand up for what he believes. I liked seeing Jory often fighting for the underdog and making sure the strong were not taking advantage of the weak. And I love dragon shifter stories and enjoyed some of the world building and set up for the story.
Unfortunately, a lot things just didn’t come together for me. I think one of the things that threw the story off for me is that this is an extended version of a book that was originally significantly shorter (my version was about 175 pages and the original is about 50 pages, I believe). I am not sure how the original plot differed, but I felt like a lot of scenes were just added to lengthen the story but didn’t really further the plot. I think the book would have benefited from tightening things up in these extra scenes or else adding some content the enhanced the plot a bit more. There are many places where we could have gotten more information– more character building on Val and Rai, more about the dragons and the dragon lore (they almost never appear on page as dragons), more development on the murder plot, etc. But instead I feel like we got a lot of extra scenes without enough substance to them.
I think the set up with the two potential mates was interesting and could have brought in a lot of good conflict. However, even though the guys are both committed to keeping Jory as their mate, the decision not actually theirs (or Jory’s). Some sort of god makes the determination who is the best mate. So it sort of takes the fire out of things, because there is nothing any of them can do to control who Jory ends up with and it instead ends up being a lot of waiting around to see what happens. Personally, I also had trouble warming up to Rai because Jory meets Val first. So I sort of paired them together in my mind and I kept assuming Rai was sort of the bad guy who would try to split them up. So when the story went a different direction, I was caught a bit off guard. It probably didn’t help that neither Val nor Rai is especially well developed as characters (and I did wonder how the king was able to wander around picking up guys in bars with no problems).
The other thing that bugged me is the whole banishing of Jory to Dragait in the first place. The king thinks one son is out to kill the other, and his response is to send Jory away. Why doesn’t he attempt to do anything to Jory’s brother instead? He is his father after all. It seemed a weird solution to this potential fratricide.
I think this story had a lot of potential so I am sorry it didn’t really work for me so well. I love dragon stories and I think the book had some enjoyable parts, it just didn’t completely come together for me.
Cover Review: Oooh, pretty pretty cover. I love the color tones and the glimpse of the dragon tattoos.