Lord Jasen isn’t exactly ready to take the Court of Draethenper by storm, but he doesn’t have much choice. When his wastrel father gambles and wins him a place amongst the yearly crop of consorts, Jasen must leave the comfortable familiarity of his home and journey into the heart of the realm. Being picked as a consort is a great honor, but Jasen isn’t thrilled by the prospect of being dressed and fluffed in order to make a match.
That is until he meets the king. Rilvor is a good ruler, but since the death his Queen Consort, he has been focused on holding the realm together. He must have a new Consort and soon because only with their help can he sustain his kingdom’s magic, as well as his connection to dragons. Rilvor is fond of Jasen from the start, as are the dragons, but his human competition proves to be far more challenging. Gossip, threats, and outright violence plague Jasen as he struggles to find his place in a world that would rather drive him away. His love for Rilvor is real, but doing what’s best for his heart and for the kingdom may mean an impossible sacrifice.
Consorting with Dragons was an enjoyable fantasy read from start to finish. There’s nothing fancy to it. The story is basic, but well constructed, and the country bumpkin makes it big trope is an unusually fun one. Jasen is from a kingdom without magic and without dragons, so when he is sent to Court he’s out of place from the start. He lacks education and refinement, but he’s quite endearing and something of a rascal. And that makes him easy to connect with as a reader. Rilvor is less defined and while he and Jasen had plenty of interaction, he often feels like more of a side character. Consorting with Dragons is really Jasen’s story and his journey towards becoming the man he wants to be.
This novel has all the usual cast: a wicked Court minister, a collection of Mean Girls, and all the rest. But the author has done an excellent job of giving these traditionally stock characters much more depth and emotion than most. For example, Princess Polina, she of the ridiculous name, is one of Jasen’s primary enemies. She’s spiteful, petty, and pathetic. But she is also not wholly without redemption and the exploration of why she is the why she is helps to make her character more memorable than I expected.
My only niggles with Consorting with Dragons deal with one aspect of Jasen’s portrayal and the dragons. Jasen often appears to either run away from responsibility or believe himself incapable of managing it. There is the underlying suggestion that he is somehow lazy and it’s brought up repeatedly. In actuality, any idea of laziness doesn’t fit the character and this never really worked in the context of how he’s portrayed. The dragons are referred to often and we meet several on page, but it’s never really clear why they’ve become so involved in human affairs or why they have such power over the nobles. There is decent world building in this book, yet the dragons remain somehow aloof to their own place in the story. I really felt they needed further definition of their role in the wider narrative.
Consorting with Dragons was a fun, quick read. It has a solid fantasy construction, solid characters, and a generally enjoyable narrative that made it a pleasure to read. It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong example of lighter fantasy, without the weight of The Hobbit or Game of Thrones. Consider it recommended.