Rycard Serod leads the Splitchain Hunters, and he’s made the desperate decision to take a bounty from the Boa Visk. They may be the enemies of all humans of the land, but Rycard and his band of hunters are in dire straits. They need the gold this bounty will bring them, so they travel to the stronghold of Shademere to hunt a dragon.
Vorgon Graydalon believes it’s his duty to protect the people of the valley, which is why he’s returned from safety and engages the Boa Visk whenever he can. Wounded from his latest attack, he must heal. But in the process, the band of hunters are able to force him to shift into his human form and take him captive. Vorgon will do whatever it takes to keep humans safe, even if it means sacrificing himself.
But when Rycard returns with his captive, the situation has changed. An even more powerful Boa Visk has taken over, and Rycard and his crew are held to be slaughtered. With the help of the dragon they captured, they manage to make it to freedom. But not everyone is happy with the situation. Rycard is left alone with Vorgon.
The connection between Vorgon and Rycard is strong. They’ve moved from enemies to friends, and then take it a step further. But Rycard’s moral compass is too strong, and he know he must go back to free those taken captive. And Vorgon knows he will do whatever he can to protect humans. Especially the man he loves.
A good fantasy novel is always going to catch my attention, so when I read the blurb on this one, I knew I wanted to give it a try. Not having read this author, or the other books in the series, I was a little wary. But the writing is smooth and descriptive, firmly grounding the reader in the world. And the book works just fine as a standalone, as all the stories are just in a shared world with a common enemy.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed was the way information was revealed at a steady pace. In a book like this, the urge to info dump is strong, so I really appreciated the way the author gave us everything we needed to know in a natural way. As part of the story, we are told exactly what enemies this world faces, how things work, the magic system, and the myth and lore surrounding both humans and dragons. As such, it was easy to get lost and really fall into the story, journeying along with Rycard and Vorgon.
The characters were well drawn and consistent, while still showing growth. The mantel of leadership has worn on Rycard, but he has an incredibly strong sense of loyalty. His people mean the world to him, and he takes responsibility for the choices he makes. He has no illusions as to what and how he is, but he will not back down from what he thinks is right. Vorgon is cut from the same cloth, but he has a more zen approach to how he deals with it. Together, they were a perfect complement, balancing each other out while striving for the same goal. I loved these guys, apart and together, and everything about their personalities worked for me.
Their relationship progresses from enemies, to friends, to lovers in a natural way. At first, Rycard seems cold and calculating, seeing Vorgon as only an enemy, a monster to be hunted. But as he begins to learn the truth of Vorgon’s heart, they become friends and compatriots. Of course, the more time they spend together, the more they learn about each other. The physical attraction is simple, but what goes with it is deeper. I liked seeing the layers revealed, and I loved watching them develop their relationship at the same time the larger plot progresses. It’s not an easy line to walk, but Fox handles it well.
All in all, this was a great fantasy novel, with all the things you expect. An enemy that must be defeated, magic and morality, loyalty and love. If you’re a fantasy fan, you won’t go wrong with this one.