Canary-for-the-DragonRating: 2.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Short Story

Dragon shifter Rex is more or less successful in living his life—no mean feat when his human mate died some two decades ago, which has left his inner dragon at loose ends. Yet recently, he has taken note of brilliant little canary shifter sitting in the window of a skyscraper high above the city. The bird’s sorrowful song calls to something within Rex. When the two have a chance meeting in a restaurant downtown, the reaction is immediate and visceral. Unfortunately, this pretty bird is bound to another, cruel master.

Valued only for his ability to breed future generations of shifters, Sky has lived his life literally caged by filial expectations. Every day, he sees a stunning specimen of a man walking among the hoi polo and Sky wishes he has the wherewithal to leave it all behind and take a chance at freedom. When that chance literally walks into him one day at a restaurant, Sky jumps at the chance to shirk duty and a loveless mating, even if only for a night.

What unfolds is a passionate night that leaves both men reeling with the understanding that there is more than mere physical attraction between a dragon and a canary. Their souls virtually sing to each other. Yet Sky’s rebuffed lover, Gareth, comes from power and expects his will to be obeyed. His claim to Sky and Sky’s own family’s willingness to use him as a pawn to secure their own semblance of power leaves the lovers in limbo. It’s up to Rex to make a daring move, to stake a claim—Sky just isn’t sure if the love of a canary is enough.

To be brutally honest, this vacuous read would probably still make a great “guilty pleasure” beach read for anyone who likes shifter tales and M/M. It features a rote representation of a dominant character in Rex meeting his other half in the submissive character, Sky. Note this is not a dom/sub type of story, just that Rex is clearly the bigger, physically more powerful and emotionally more assertive of the two compared to Sky’s flightiness and need for reassurance (and failure to get it has him happily playing martyr because he thinks it will somehow be in Rex’s best interest).

All of our characters are pretty weakly developed, more names for common avatars. As different as Rex and Gareth are, I find myself thinking of them as different shades of the same color because they are both strong-men types. I think these waters got muddied for me partly because the writing is so superficially developed, yet I see Sky reacting so differently to Rex and Gareth (who, again, feel like the same TYPE of man, just differing in their treatment of Sky). That is to say, Sky seems to crave and seek out Rex’s dominance over him while resenting Gareth’s. While this would be intriguing in a longer story, this one is too short to due justice to this idea. To be sure, Gareth is a nasty guy up one side and down the other and Rex is all bout the tenderness towards his submissive mate…but I felt convinced Rex showed behavior that indicated he could be someone else’s Gareth in the right situation.

But perhaps I read too much into what is clearly a fun, sexy, fantasy romp. If I weren’t reading this with a eye towards reviewing, I’d probably be totally satisfied the two star-crossed lovers ended up making good on their plans for a HEA and the bad guy got a walloping comeuppance. Like I said, this is the kind of book I’d be pleased to have found for a buck on Amazon and read at the beach or something. This is a frivolous, bland way to kill a couple hours.

That said, the prose is sort of a mess. Little care seems to have been taken in the editing because there are dropped words, repeated phrases, and the continuity is kind of awful. For example, the pivotal scene where Rex and Sky meet happens when Gareth and Sky are going out to lunch. There is an altercation, Rex ends up escorting Sky to Rex’s apartment, and invites him to stay until Sky can figure out how to get out from under Gareth’s control. Rex then has to return to the office driving “like a madman. Given it was dark and the middle of the night…”

I found it interesting that Rex was given a deceased lover. This is the kind of inclusion that, in retrospect, makes me wonder why bother adding it. Rex could just as easily have been a lone wolf and the fact that he’d HAD a previous lover (who had apparently been a full-fledged mate?) didn’t really cause Sky any angst over how to carve out a place in Rex’s heart for himself, which made the whole deceased lover thing a non-starter for me. Same goes for the odd inclusion of Sky’s and Gareth’s fathers in the climactic resolution between Gareth, Sky, and Rex. The men didn’t add value to the story by being physically present in the scene, yet there they were. It felt like overreach, characters appearing on page as a means to an end without having substantial build up in the story. At least Sky’s parents got a few cursory mentions earlier in the story.

Overall, this is a rather rudimentary story. It’s few merits include a storyline that focuses almost entirely on the romantic drama between a socially weak-positioned shifter being rescued from one overbearing, emotionally abusive (and perhaps physically abusive, but that’s not on page) arrangement marriage type by another strong-man who presumably is better (if only because he’s physically attracted to the weaker shifter). If you don’t mind such a simple story line and inelegant writing, there may be some enjoyment in reading this.

camille sig