Rating: 3.25 stars
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Separated three years ago, twins Baine and Laine have both suffered abuse and mistreatment that most can’t understand. As maji, Baine and Laine are beings made of magic with no way to use it. On the other hand, magi are beings able to use magic, but who have no magic of their own. Centuries ago, magi bound themselves ritually to maji in order to steal magic that was once freely given. When Baine and Laine were of age, they were forced to bond with the magi that led each one to such different paths in their lives.
Keeping a promise made years ago, Baine set out to find his twin after his own magi master’s death, which in turn broke the shackles bonding him to the magi. Determined to rescue his brother and return home in order to support his parents in their rise to power as leaders of the tribe, Baine sets off on a two year journey. Discovering Laine’s location in the midst of a werewolf village makes his quest more difficult, but Baine is determined to rescue his long lost brother.
After the dragons and werewolves defeated the magi threatening to take over the human kingdom, Laine found himself in the company of the werewolves and dragons. When he wakes up in the comfort of a werewolf’s home where he is treated as a free man, Laine remains guarded just in case it is a test by his cruel magi masters. He’s sure it must be because the magical shackles that mark him as a slave and make it easier to steal his magic are still attached to his arms. Spending a majority of the past three years in pain, exhausted, and in a haze due to the treatment of the magi, Laine isn’t sure what to believe.
Once Baine and Laine explain the enslavement brought on by the magical shackles to Reese, the alpha werewolf, and Dean, the dragon representative to the werewolf village, Reese helps break the magical hold that the shackles have on Laine. Now that Laine is free, Baine is determined to see to his responsibility and take Laine home so that they can back their parents as leaders of their tribe, but Laine has grown to trust Reese and has no intentions of leaving him. Discovering that Reese is his mate only cements his decision to take up permanent residence in the werewolf village, but he agrees to travel to their home village with Reese by his side only for as long as it takes to help his parents.
Baine tries to stay focused on his goal of returning to his parent’s home, but he has a hard time of it when Laine seems resistant to return to their home village. Baine’s confusion further sets in when he realizes that his attraction to the dragon, Dean, is more than a simple attraction. Baine must decide what is more important – love and magic or responsibility and power.
Then a surprise attack on the werewolf village threatens to separate both sets of lovers before they even have a real chance together.
Breaking the Shackles is the second book in Mell Eight’s Dragon’s Hoard series. Just like in the first book Finding the Wolf, the world building in this story continues to be very original and imaginative. The storyline is also a decent one, but the delivery of the storyline is less than stellar. This book is a case of too much telling and not enough showing. Like I said, it is a good storyline, but more showing would have made a pretty great one. There was too much he did this, he did that, and not enough feeling and emotion behind it.
The characters are likable enough, but the connection, especially between the couples – Laine and Reese, and Baine and Dean – wasn’t as strong as I would have liked it. Then the sudden turnaround – Baine scowling and generally disliking Dean to automatically loving him – was akin to insta-love whiplash. And as a reader I didn’t really feel much of a connection to the characters.
On the plus side, the continued world building that carried over from the first book progressed even further in this story. A new race of magical beings is introduced here – the maji. The maji are beings made of magic, but with no ability to use that magic. The connection and history given between the maji and magi is also very creative. I enjoyed this part of the story, although I kept expecting to see the maji share their magic with their mates, but that never happened.
So in the end, I’m a little disappointed in Breaking the Shackles. It is an okay story, but the delivery was weak. I’m not giving up on this series, because I love a good fantasy and I adore dragon shifters, so I’m holding out hope that the next book will be an improvement.