Rating: 4 stars
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Dragons invaded and the world fell apart. No more television, no more phones, no more human supremacy. Instead, humans have retreated into domes coated with copper alloys and defend themselves with what weapons they were able to keep. Copper, steel, and aluminum — metals that don’t agree with dragons — in the form of nets, clubs, and bullets. No longer the apex predator, humans have learned to keep their heads down and obey their new Dragon King.
The first law, the bloodiest law, the only law of importance is one that keeps humans from laying hands upon a dragon. When human skin touches dragon scales, a form of magic happens, bonding them together into Enukara and dragon. The human gains the ability to heal others, while the dragon gains immortality. But immortal doesn’t mean invulnerable, and anyone — dragon or human — who kills an Enukara or their bonded dragon gains that power and that immortality for themselves.
To keep dragonkind from tearing itself apart, Zacharaiah, the Dragon King, slaughtered the healers and their bonded dragons. Only he and he alone was allowed to spill their blood and gain their powers for his own. Men, women, children, it didn’t matter to him. It’s been years, now, since the death of the last Enukara. Years of fragile peace. A peace that is about to be broken.
A simple act of kindness when a young boy tries to help a young dragon. A woman defending her home accidentally touches a draconic arm. A young man tries to defend a woman from her attacker, not caring what she is. Three new Enukara and three new immortal dragons must face down the Dragon King and prove that they are worthy of living. Perhaps the healing touch of an Enukara can help more than broken bones or cancerous lungs. Maybe the touch of an Enukara can heal the anger and pain within the heart of the Dragon King.
Dragons and Healers follow these story of these three Enukara/dragon pairs. First, during an attack by angry, adolescent dragons trying to steal sheep, Devon follows a young lamb out into the rain. When he comes across another boy, wounded and scared — just like him — he doesn’t pause to think about the consequences. He reaches out a hand to help and finds himself bonded to Carlisle, a dragon his own age. The two of them become friends, a natural reaction of being forced into one another’s company in the pleasant little prison that now contains their entire life. As young as they are, it’s easier for them to adapt, but they are so young there isn’t much they can do and they remain largely incidental to the story, for all that they’re a cute couple of kids.
Next is Gloria, a middle aged woman. Bitter, practical, overweight, and used to being overlooked, her accidental bonding to Mitchum changes her life in ways she certainly doesn’t expect. She has no one to miss her at home, for all that she’s suddenly one of the three most important humans in the world, and her relationship with her dragon starts off with resentment and anger on both sides. Gloria and Mitchum had so little power in their previous lives and while they have some small bit of it now, the power to heal the injured and change lives, they’re still isolated from their own kind. Gloria will never have any life but the life of a pampered prisoner, and Mitchum will never have a mate, never sire offspring, never have the chance to prove himself.[spoiler] Watching these two go from antipathy to acceptance only made their eventual fate the more heartbreaking. Neither Gloria nor Mitchum could ever be described as noble, let alone brave, but when given the chance both of them chose to sacrifice their happiness and safety for the lives of others. Their unremarkable lives had noble and fitting ends, and it sucked because I liked their relationship and their slowly growing friendship the most of all the pairings in this book.[/spoiler]
Finally, there is Jonas, who is unpleasant and petty. He constantly belittles people in his thoughts to help build himself up. He’s shallow and vain and it’s a good thing he’s good looking because Mr. Mary Sue isn’t that bright. There is little room in Jonas’ thoughts for other people at all, unless it’s to pick them apart. That said, I don’t mind a character being unpleasant. I don’t mind Jonas being a jackass. Or rather, I wouldn’t mind him being a jackass if he was consistent. Instead, his personality changes drastically depending on if he’s in the story with other characters, or if he’s off insulting and pouting at the Dragon King. Jonas never faces repercussions for his actions because he’s clad in the impenetrable plot armor.
Jonas, throughout the book, never has to deal with the aftereffects of any of his choices, even when they cause harm to other people. This is in stark contrast to Gloria who, knowing the Dragon King will rip the dome apart in search for her, attends the mandatory role call in order to spare innocent men, women, and children from being killed. She doesn’t want to die, but she won’t let anyone else suffer for her. Jonas, on the other hand avoids the role call and vanishes into the woods where, when faced with an angry Dragon King, sasses back sassily. When he is finally captured, does he quake in fear, or even think for a moment about his own mortality? This is, after all, a dragon who kills men and women for simply being an Enukara. No, he cuddles him and thinks about what it would be like to kiss him.
While interacting with Gloria, his own dragon Iliandra, or his best friend, Jonas is himself. Unpleasant, sulky, and entitled, but his own person nonetheless. But let Zackariah into the scene and Jonas turns into a bratty damsel always in trouble and always antagonizing the dragon — who he calls, for some reason, dragon boy in his head — because he knows he’ll never be punished for it. Because Jonas has no awareness or acknowledgement of the danger of the situation, the reader must therefore assume that there’s nothing dangerous about the Dragon King. He’s not so bad or scary or powerful because, when Jonas is in the scene, he’s nothing interesting at all.
I would like to say that this is because Jonas is an unreliable narrator. After all, when we Zak through Gloria’s eyes she’s certainly aware of the danger and she is very much both afraid of and wary of him. When healing a group of humans, one of them, a young boy, has an adverse reaction to the Enukara powers. He becomes obsessed, addicted, and tries to get to them even through the thick glass. Zakariah breaks his neck. Gloria hears it snap. While Zak had his reasons and while they may have been good ones, he killed a child in front of them. Jonas, witness to the same scene, has no reaction because, as I’ve said, unless it affects him he doesn’t seem to care.
Unfortunately I think most of Jonas’s moments with Zak — the inconsistencies, the out of character reactions or lack thereof — are due to the author and not Jonas. I have no idea why Jonas wants to fuck Zachariah. He has a fiance, but on their first meeting, he’s climbing the Dragon King like a tree. There’s no emotional connection between them. But Jonas is cold and wet and Zakariah is warm, so … that equals lust? It felt insincere, especially when contrasted to the relationships between the other Enukara and their dragons.
Because of the Enukara bond, a dragon is able to feel what their human feels. When a human is hungry, their dragon feels it. When a human is injured, the injuries appear on their dragon. When a human — Jonas — feels horny, so does their dragon. However, that doesn’t mean the dragon is interested, simply feeling the physical affects thanks to their human. Dragons go into heat once a year or so, unlike humans, which makes it even more an issue of consent when Jonas begins feeling urges towards Zakariah who, for reasons — actually a very clever and intriguing plot reason — feels an Enukara bond with Jonas.
The author assures us Zakariah is in love by having one of Zak’s fellow dragons comment on it, but it doesn’t ring true to me. It’s frustrating because when Jonas was with Gloria, Devon, anyone but Zakariah he was his own unpleasant person, but as soon as the Dragon King entered the room it became clear that Jonas and Zakariah were characters written by an author performing the actions and mouthing the lines required of them. There was a small glimmer, though, in the final chapters of Jonas reverting to having a personality even while in Zakariah was present, which gives me hopes for the second book.
I liked this world. I liked the writing. I liked most of the characters and I loved how the Enukara and their dragons interacted together as pairs and as a group. But whenever Jonas and Zak were on the same page it became a different and unbelievable book. I recommend this story, but you’ll be better served if you read it for the plot, not for the romance.
This does sound intriguing, Elizabeth, despite its shortcomings. (Somehow I’d expected a lower overall rating given your review.) I believe I’ll see how the series develops before reading this.
I did have a few issues with the story but, just because I didn’t like a character doesn’t mean they’re a badly written character. Also, I do think the ending — Jonas’s own disillusionment with Zakaraiah and his behavior — showed growth, both of which really added to my enjoyment. A character being true to themselves (no matter how much I want to strangle them!) will always win points from me. If that makes sense.