Rating: 4 stars
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The kingdom of Ocassus used to be shared by both dragons and humans. The oldest dragon served as advisor to the king, the royal family passing down the trait of being Dragon Speakers. But now the humans have claimed too much power and forgotten the partnership they used to have with dragons. Dragon slayers are common and many people fear dragons as vicious killers, not realizing they can be gentle when treated kindly. Torran is one of the rare Dragon Speakers, and uses his gift to help solve conflicts between dragons and humans.
Sir Karrick Brenton is a Knight of the Crown and also a Dragon Speaker, though he has his reasons for keeping that a secret. When he meets Torran, the two have an instant connection. After Karrick helped Torran and his friends fend off threats to one of the gates between Earth and Terra, the two men became friends, and quickly lovers as well. For the first time, each man feels he has met someone who truly understands his passions and motivations, someone who really completes him.
When Karrick reported to the king the good deeds of Torran and his friends, the men captured the king’s attention, and he now wants them to come to Dragon’s Landing to help him with two missions. One is for Bryson, the witch and guardian of one of the gates between Earth and Terra. He also has a special request of Torran, one that requires his skills as a Dragon Speaker and that gets him mixed up in court politics and intrigue he has no interest in being a part of. But when the king calls, the men must come, even if they are happier in their little corner of the kingdom, far from the limelight. And when the men make it to Dragon’s Landing, they find trouble awaits them in the form of someone from Karrick’s past who is determined to stop the men from succeeding on their missions.
Knight of Fire is the second book in the Terra series, following the fabulous To the Other Side. The first book focuses on Bryson, the witch and gatekeeper, and his human lover Garrett. There we meet not only those two men, but Bryson’s close friends — Torran the Dragon Speaker, Lark the minstrel, and Zain the assassin. This story picks up shortly after the first, and once again features these men, as well as Karrick and an elf they have befriended.
Karrick and Torran fall for one another fairly quickly after the book starts. It does not feel rushed, as the men have known and been attracted to one another since the previous book. Although Torran has some doubts at first about whether a noble like Karrick would ever really want a commoner like him, those fears are put aside fairly fast and the men are settled together very early on in the book with no real conflict between them. So most of the story is about their journey to Dragon’s Landing, and what happens there. I really enjoyed their travels, especially as they “cut through” Earth, traveling from one gate between realms to the other by car to speed up the trip. So we get some fun scenes of the men putting on their Earth clothes and experiencing some culture shock as they travel (they are big fans of the hot water and showers). It also shows the close bond between these men, who are the best of friends and really compliment each other’s strengths in their journey.
Once they make it to Dragon’s Landing, things slowed down a bit for me, mostly because the two quests just didn’t have as much excitement as I hoped. One deals with a character who is close to Karrick, but we never meet. So while I was sympathetic to her untimely death, I didn’t feel much urgency to discover who killed her. And ultimately the cause of her death wasn’t particularly shocking or exciting. Torran’s quest was more interesting to me, as it deals both with the dragon/human relations, as well as intrigue at the court that leads to danger for all of them. By the time things come to a head with the conflicts and the bad guys, the story picks up speed. But I did wish things were just a little juicer and more exciting with both their quests and the resolution.
As I said, the story really focuses on the group of men as a whole, and I really loved them together. Since we met almost all of them in the first book, I really felt like we have gotten to know and connect with the characters. Frost gives them all distinct roles and personalities, and I never felt they were just interchangeable as can sometimes be the case in an ensemble story. I do think Karrick and Torran get a little overshadowed though. The group is so strong, and their camaraderie such a big part of the story, that the two men and their relationship just doesn’t take center stage. I think part of it also is that their relationship is pretty much sewn up in the first few chapters. They fall fast and face no real hurdles to being together. For me the most interesting couple of all is Lark and Zain, two men who have been circling each other since the first book. Their relationship is just fascinating. The men are in love, but Lark sees spirits and can speak to the dead, and Zain is an assassin, with spirits following him everywhere. The yearning these men have for one another is palpable, and yet their lives are fundamentally incompatible. I have no doubt they will get their story soon (and I am DYING for it), but every time they were on page my attention was drawn to them over our main characters.
Where this book most excelled for me, as with the first, is the incredible world building. Frost manages to create this fascinating and complex world with magic and dragons and knights and kings. It is a realm that exists in parallel with ours, and in fact a chosen few can pass from one side to the other. I loved the way the story contrasts Earth and Terra, both literally as the men travel through Earth, and also in smaller ways, like with the various creatures we encounter. I especially loved the little dragon companions. We meet them in the first book as well, but here we actually get to hear their thoughts as both Karrick and Torran can understand them. This part of the story is so well done and is what really has drawn me to this series.
So I am really enjoying this series, and can’t wait for future installments. I am so hoping we get Lark and Zain’s story next, because I really just adore them together. And while I think parts of this book were a little slower than I’d hoped, I really did like it and would recommend both books in the series. I don’t read many fantasy stories, but this series has definitely captured my attention and left me anxious for more.
P.S. I think this book would stand alone fine, but I just loved To the Other Side and think Knight of Fire is much richer if you are familiar with both the world and the characters.