Adrian Varian Kendall has always prided himself on his ability to keep his three lives separate from each other no matter how intense things got. High school teacher, dragonshifter, and gay male, elements of himself kept partitioned due to necessity and security of those around him. Then he receives notice while teaching class, a clear message from a Knight to meet in battle. But Varian doesn’t know which student left him the message. Suddenly the walls between his separate lives collapse, as the Notice poses a threat not only to the dragon families Varian protects, but to his human lover, Josh, as well.
Thousands of years ago as the Knights threatened all Dragonkind with extinction, Dragons hid by taking human form and vanishing into the human populations around them. Now this one Notice threatens to bring all dragons out of hiding, exposing them to the human world, and leaving them vulnerable to attacks from groups of Knights determined to kill them once and forever. Varian’s lover, Josh, has no idea that he is living with a dragon and the stress of hiding his true nature from Josh is straining that relationship to the point of breaking. Every part of his life is now under attack and Varian will do anything necessary to bring about a peace, even if he must sacrifice himself.
I have always loved dragons so a story about dragonshifters hits quite a few of my buttons. Raiya does a wonderful job of meshing dragon lore with contemporary reality to give us a really neat twist on the old Dragon and Knights story. Here the conflict between Knights and Dragons has carried through the ages, even as both groups have undergone changes to adapt to the modern world. In the past, the Knights greatly outnumbered the dragons and almost brought about their extinction, killing vast numbers. To save their species, some dragons disappared, and some took humans as thralls to help them exist only to disappear themselves too. The rest took human form and quietly receded into human communities, dragon traditions and teachings fading as the centuries passed. Raiya gives us a wonderful backstory without taking away from the action adventure story being told.
I loved the characterizations as well, especially Varian and Josh. Varian is a complex character in love with a human whose background and personality exceeds his own in intensity and dimension. Varian loves teaching and has a protective nurturing nature which is at odds at the fighter/killer the Knights force him to be. He has kept his true form and identity from Josh and that has stifled his relationship. He is still young and makes mistakes that come from lack of experience in relationships and maturity. Josh is flamboyantly gay, from his makeup and glittery clothes to the sexual art forms he creates. Josh is almost defiantly feminine which stems from an abusive background and parents determined to beat him straight. I loved Josh who asks to be accepted for who he is even if he is not sure what exactly that is himself, just a great character who provides both heart-wrenching angst and surprising abilities. Huntington is another person full of endearing qualities that just enlists the readers sympathy even when you aren’t sure he is deserving of it. Only the main villain disappointed me. His motives were never clear. And without a history or backstory for the villain, then his actions never made any sense. I also had a few quibbles with some editing errors in the story, including a homonym that stopped me cold. Here Josh says, “Can I be a terrible boar” instead of “bore,” something an editor should have caught. But overall, Raiya gives a fantasy story of dragons, Knights, and the enduring power of family and love.
Cover: The cover is by Alessio Brio. I had a problem seeing the black dragons flying on the cover due to all the darkness (or maybe just my poor eyesight). I just wish there had been a little more contrast so the dragons would be easier to pick out.
This is a Holiday Sip from Torquere Press featuring Varian and Josh from Notice. It is their first Christmas together and Varian realizes the importance of choosing just the right gift for Josh, one that will show Josh how much Varian loves and treasures their relationship. Varian has grown tremendously since Notice and Raiya lets us in on Varian’s thoughts on their time together and the current status they have worked so hard to achieve since the events in that book. It is a heartwarming tale, perfect for anytime of the year and an enjoyable visit with a couple I came to love in the first story.
Varian and Josh are getting married and all their friends are in attendance. Dragons, Knights, and lots of Humans, unaware of their magical presence, all have come to see two of their best friends forever bonded. Varian’s normal nerves of steel are rattled as never before when facing the prospect of a wedding planned by his unpredictable lover, Josh. And the fact that his brother and best friend won’t look at him while refusing to tell him what Josh has planned? Not at good thing at all. Plus the new age minister that Josh found to marry them is giving off strange vibes to go with the stranger looks he is giving the couple. Varian’s wedding jitters continue to ramp up, only his love for Josh keeps him safely anchored instead of fleeing in panic. Now if only he can overcome his natural dragon’s reticence for speech in time to speak his vows! What can go wrong next at the marriage of Varian and Josh from the Notice series? Welcome to their wedding where anything that could happen does and a special wedding present to match all wedding presents is delivered to the happy couple.
Raiya’s A Sky Full of Wings was my first introduction to this author and the series. I knew this story was part of a series I had not read before but ended up loving it even without the first stories to go by. Raiya fleshed out enough of Varian and Josh’s backstory for me that I did not feel as though I was missing out on too much information. I loved the characters the author created almost immediately from Dr. Adrian Varian Kendall, a teacher who just happens to be a black dragon and Josh, his human lover who just might be more than he seems but no one appears to know what that is exactly. All the elements here are vividly described, from the multilayered characters to a dragon cartwheeling in joy through the sky.
I felt that this story was so well written from the humorous beginning to the end with its unexpected wedding guests and its portents of things to come that A Sky Full of Wings sent me back to start from the beginning. I don’t feel that it is entirely necessary to read the other books first to love this story as Raiya gives the reader all they need here to understand the characters in the wedding party and some of the backstory.
Cover: Cover artist Alessio Brio. I love the dragon in the background, but to be honest, I have no idea what those things are on either side. If you know, please clue me in as my curiosity is up! [I think maybe champagne glasses? – Jay]