Rating: 3.5 stars
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Boek is a cook in the castle of Gravaick, evil leader of the Draguns. Bo stays because his brother is a dragon shifter and is therefore forced to work as one of Gravaick’s warriors, even though Nikolai is a good soul. But Gravaik has waged war on the vampires, wanting total power over the realm of Pavarus for himself, and demands the loyalty of his fellow dragon shifters.
One day when shopping in town, Bo is kidnapped by two of the vampires and brought back to their castle. There he imprisoned, but the vampire leader Keddrick quickly realizes Bo means them no harm and agrees to let him go. But before he can leave, Bo finds himself drawn to one of the fiercest vampire warriors, Zane.
Zane has never fit in with the other members of the coven. Partly it is because he has a reputation for being mean and violent. And partly because Zane isolates himself due to a secret he holds. Zane is half-blood with a human mother, and half-bloods are looked down upon and never deemed strong enough to be warriors. He is sure that if anyone finds out about his mother that he will be kicked out of the warriors, something he has wanted to be all his life.
Zane too finds himself drawn to the little dragon, but he wants to keep his distance. Although Bo insists that they are mates, and Zane can surely feel a bond with him, Zane doesn’t think he deserves the happiness of love and a family. He also doesn’t see how as a vampire he can possibly be the mate of a dragon, and is sure there can be no future for them. But as the fight with the Draguns escalates, Zane finds that Bo is a continued source of comfort. Zane must decide if he is going to follow his head, or open up his heart to Bo and his love.
Airos is the third book in Jennifer Wright’s Finding Home series and it continues the story of the battle for Pavarus. The series focuses on this alternate realm, connected to Earth through portals, and where dragons, mages, vampires, and humans live together. This is the first in the series that takes place solely in Pavarus and it gives focus to the continued conflicts between the vampires and Draguns, as well as the romance between Zane and Bo and the goings on of other characters we have met along the way.
So the first thing that struck me is that I was very surprised at the romantic pairing here. My feeling was that the first two books of the series pointed very heavily toward a relationship between Zane and his best friend Larken. Zane has always been a sort of misunderstood, brooding guy who no one really likes but they all tolerate because he is a good warrior. The only person who has been able to see the real Zane and truly care for him is Larken. Their relationship has always been close and over the two books seemed to be growing closer as they had at least one hook up and it is clear that Larken is in love with Zane. So it never even occurred to me that we weren’t building towards an ultimate pairing between these two and to suddenly bring in Bo was somewhat jarring after all that build up.
That said, I did like Bo a lot. I am a sucker for the feisty, little guy who stands up to his big, powerful partner. Bo finds himself in a terrifying situation as he is kidnapped and he handles himself well. He is committed to his brother and soon dedicated to Zane as well. I enjoyed them as a couple and he is a likable character, but as I said, it was still sort of strange to not see Zane and Larken end up together. Especially because ultimately Zane feels he must choose between his heart that calls to Bo, but his head that feels a deep love, but not attraction, for Larken. And sadly, we get no resolution for Larken here, but perhaps that will come in another book. I also have to point that Bo falls for Zane after seeing his eyes through a cell door peephole. Yes, that is all it takes. Then Zane, feeling the pull to this strange dragon, takes Bo out of the cell and up to his room to have sex pretty much immediately. And then leaves him unguarded while Bo is still officially a prisoner. And no one has a problem with that at all. So yes, I did like these guys together but that was a rough start to get past for me.
The thing I am enjoying most about this series is the world building. I think Wright has done a nice job setting up this realm with all kinds of creatures living together. We have warriors and regular people and both internal battles as well as complications within the earthly realm. I like how the different beings have their strengths and weaknesses in their battle with each other. The series definitely builds upon each book and I think you would be pretty lost if you hadn’t read the first two, Pavarus and Morvea. In fact, even having read them I found places where I was forgetting things, like the difference between a Dragun and a regular dragon (I think Draguns shift and dragons don’t, but I am not positive). I think a few small details could have gone a long way here in making sure even series readers could remember details without overloading us with backstory. But overall, I enjoy the world and the lore that goes along with it.
But I did have some problems here and unfortunately I don’t think this story (or the previous one) really lives up to the promise of the first book of the series. Aside from the issues I mentioned already, one thing that continues to be a problem for me is all the head hopping. This is something that has carried across the series, and as we meet more characters, has become even more confusing. In addition to being in Bo and Zane’s POV, we also jump in and out of the heads of a bunch of other characters, some so minor as to have almost no role in this story. Not only is keeping track of everyone hard, but with so many characters and so many POVs I just feel like the story gets awfully muddled. There isn’t enough clarity of focus on the main characters; instead we have to learn what all these other people are thinking and feeling about random things and after a while it just dilutes the main storyline.
I also found myself confused at just why so many people seem to hate Zane so much, including Zane himself. We learn that he was falsely accused of rape and that as a result, some people still think he is violent. And yes, he is sort of surly and not super pleasant. But he seems almost to be hated by everyone (even Keddrick, their leader, tells him he doesn’t really like him). I noted this in my first review, but we have one character, Damien, whose sole role in this series seems to be hating Zane and we never get a good reason why. He pretty much does nothing else besides be the guy who hates Zane. Then we get another vampire, Varek, who hates Zane so much he is willing to betray all the vampires. Like hates him with vitriol. But again, why so much animosity (even before he learns Zane is a half-breed)? I really needed to see this negative side of Zane more to understand why we have two characters whose sole presence seems to to center around hating him. But instead, all our interaction with Zane as readers is largely positive. We see the good in him from the very start. He is a strong warrior, good to Larken, kind to his mother. If we are going to buy him being worthy of all this hatred, we need to understand why.
Ok, a few more things here. So the bad guys. In addition to the Zane haters, we also have Gravaick, evil Dragun leader. At least I understand his motivation. He is power hungry and wants to control everything (though I was never clear on his obsession with Nikolai. There is a lot of crazy here with no explanation given). But I found both Gravaick and Varek to be almost cartoonishly evil (again, an issue I raised about the villain of Morvea as well). Like these guys are so Evil that I almost expected them to start tapping their fingers together and cackling maniacally. But they are just not fleshed out characters at all, they are just sort of Bad Guy outlines. To me, the only way a villain has real intensity is if you can kind of understand him (even if your understanding is just that he is crazy). So I felt something was missing here and these guys needed to be more developed characters for me to really be invested in this part of the plot.
I don’t want to keep piling on here, because it wasn’t a horrible book. But overall things just felt muddled. Things just kept happening that seemed to come out of nowhere. New revelations, new bad guys, new plot twists. Combined with the head hopping and the poorly developed villains, I just felt like the story was sort of wandering along, rather than having a crisp focus and keeping me well engaged.
As I said, I really enjoyed Pavarus and think the series showed a lot of potential. Unfortunately, so far I have felt like the second two books really didn’t meet that same level of story telling or character development that we got in that first book. The world building continues to be good and the main characters are definitely engaging. I do find myself invested in what happens to these guys and think Wright has done a good job of developing the plot arc over the series. But I think this one had too many issues for me to feel really satisfied with this third book. That said, if you are enjoying the series so far, I would say give this one a try and see how it works for you.