Rating: 3.25 stars
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Length: Novel

Dra’Kaedan, a  young man born to noble rank and possessing great power, has lost everything. The son of the Grand Warlock, he was next in line to rule his people until Carvallius took it all away. His power, his freedom, the memory of his parents and his brother, even the memory of his name. The evil warlock bound Dra’Kaeden and his magic, chained it and twisted it into the service of his granddaughter.  Dra’Kaeden, now called Ayden, is no longer a warlock. He is now a familiar who must do everything he can to please the capricious and cruel Latarian or face the bite of her lash.

Brogan is a dragon shifter whose life changed the day his best friend was chosen by Fate herself to become a king. Cursed with a strange coloring, someone has decided to frame Alexsander D’vaire for the deaths of the emperors. Brogan is a loyal soul who would not leave his friend to face Fate’s fickle fortunes by himself and so chooses to follow Alexsander into exile.

Years pass. Decades, centuries, until at last Latarian and her slave Ayden become tired of the magicked cottage the warlock Carvallius put them in for their safety. When they emerge from the woods, they find a world so changed it might as well be another realm altogether. Six hundred centuries have passed while Latarian, who meant to rule as Grand Warlock and her uncle’s heir, languished in tedium with only Ayden for company. Six centuries in which her grandfather’s schemes fell apart in his hands, six centuries in which her grandfather has been dead and his evil known to the world.

They find themselves at the home of the D’Vaire clan, a small family of dragon shifters who offer them sanctuary, and something even more precious for Ayden: friendship. Latarian has never had a kind word for him, only abuse and pain. But beneath the watchful and kind regard of Alexsander, Larissa, and the others, Ayden begins to find the spark of determination and confidence Latarian has tried to extinguish. When Brogan returns home, the spark errupts into a flame as Ayden meets his soul match. No matter how Latarian tries to keep them apart, the two of then circle ever closer to one another, drawn by the inexorable pull of Fate.

Kingdoms will rise and fall beneath dragon fire as the magical chains that bind Ayden begin to drain more than just his magic. Will love be enough to free Ayden from the ancient curses of a long-dead warlock? And will Latarian’s desires for power and vengeance be the ruin of all Brogan has come to hold dear?

This book (the author’s first) was originally written some time ago, and since then the author has expanded her world and written nearly a dozen novels in the series. Kingly has come back to this first story and made some revisions to update, improve, and tweak here and there, so if you have read this book before — and enjoyed it — it might be interesting for you to read this revised version.

Ayden doesn’t know who he was. He believes that, like any familiar, he came into being fully formed at his warlock (or witch’s) summons. He has her memories and is bound to her, to be obedient and to want only for her happiness. Unfortunately, unlike any other familiar, he finds himself rebelling. He has independent thoughts, doesn’t particularly like Latarian, and will often take actions knowing he will be punished for them. But, as neither he nor Latarian know how a familiar and warlock bond is supposed to be, they accept it as what it is, treating Ayden as a poor, misbehaving creature that needs constant punishment and discipline. For six hundred years in the cabin his beatings were daily, sometimes several times a day. In all this time, however — perhaps owing to a sense of timelessness in the enchanted cabin — neither he nor Latarian have come to peace or understanding with one another. They’re simply locked into a loop, doing the same thing each day, having the same arguments, the same whippings, the same lack of care on either side.

Latarian isn’t some cackling, grand, and dramatic evil. Instead, she’s a representation of the banality of evil. She’s lazy, she doesn’t care what Ayden thinks of her. So long as she’s comfortable and well-fed she doesn’t care about much of anything but herself. When they finally meet outsiders, she doesn’t care if Ayden makes friends… so long as she can punish him for it. She never really forbids it, and he never really stops disobeying her. They both just keep performing the same routine they always have. It’s only when Brogan arrives that Latarian has any inclination to stir herself to actually take an active notice in Ayden’s life.

Brogan has always wanted a soul mate. He leaves his family for months at a time to go looking, all to no avail. When he returns home to see these new arrivals at the family house, he is taken aback when he realizes his soul mate is there. And is red-headed, green eyed, and bound to a warlock. Brogan upset at the thought of being bonded to a familiar. To… property. It sets things off on the wrong foot, to say the least. His questions are natural, though: how does this work? How do you bond to a familiar when a familiar is already bonded to a witch? Not to mention that there are no more warlocks and witches, and no more familiars since the disastrous magical battles caused by the dark warlock Caravail.

There are three parts of this story that stand out: The relationship, the plot, and the world building. And in all three of them there are good points and bad ones. The best of these, and arguably the most important, is the relationship between Ayden, Brogan, and Latarian. Ayden and Brogan have to overcome a rough start, they have to get to know one another as people even with the mystic force of the soul bond. Ayden has had to repress much of who he is, which makes being around Brogan difficult. He has to overcome 600 years of habit to show off who he really is. Brogan has to learn to accept that the person Fate has decided he’s supposed to love isn’t the idealized version of the prince he had in his head, and both of them have to deal with the reality of Latarian having absolute control over Ayden.

It was close. Very close. But due to the fact that this book had to establish the world as well as the characters, the relationship fell to the side, like an unfinished cake. There are glimmers of it, and the idea is there. The execution, though, is lacking, especially as Latarian and the damage she has done to Ayden as a person are so quickly ignored as if they didn’t matter. Six hundred years of being owned by someone, tortured by someone, and none of it matters. If that’s the case, why have it be 600 years at all? Why have him whipped every day until his back tore and bled if it can be waved away? Not one character really acknowledges it with anything more than a token “tsk-tsk” at Latarian.

The world building is just not there. We know there are dragons and witches and necromancers, but if witches and warlocks, too, can use dark magic, what makes a necromancer a necromancer? Witches and warlocks summon familiars, necromancers summon sentinels. Is the name of the summons the only difference? There are beast shifters and dragon shifters, and … I think there are non-magical people? This felt a lot like a smorgasboard of supernatural stereotypes that would have been better suited to a more streamlined approach. I understand wanting to show off everything your world has to offer, but all this book has is a lot of names and no actual explanation.

What, for example, is a familiar? The two we see at the end of the book seem to be a cross between bratty teenagers and bratty kid brothers. In which case, Ayden was a normal familiar. Or are those two familiars also aberrations? Is a familiar another race? Is it just manifested power or is it a living, breathing person enslaved into service? Latarian can draw on Ayden’s magic, or so she says, but I have no real feel for how magic works. Bloodstains vanish and food is created with the wave of a hand, so I’m guessing both are equally complex — or equally simple. Is there a difference between a big spell and a little one? Is there a difference between dragon magic and familiar magic?

So much is left unexplained in this book as if it’s taken for granted we already know what’s going on — or ought to — and have experienced the world before. The plot almost got interesting, with Latarian having to face both her grandfather’s failure and the fact that history calls him evil. She wanted to redeem his name, to restore his legacy and take her rightful place as the Grand Warlock … after she finished lazing about for weeks doing nothing. She didn’t honestly seem to care about anything other than being mildly put out when she wasn’t allowed to beat Ayden anymore. I imagine the story will pick up in future books, but I wasn’t given enough reason, in this book, to really want to continue.

This isn’t a bad book. It’s well written and the relationship between Ayden and Brogan is handled very well. It’s just everything else. The grey box of nothingness that is the setting (I think they’re in Arizona? At least, Arizona was mentioned once or twice) leaves me unable to get a feel for the world, the supernatural creatures thrown about feel rather generic when we get a chance to see them, and while Latarian is interesting in theory, she doesn’t hold up, story-wise. I’d be interested to see other books in this series, but this story in particular left me feeling uninspired.

elizabeth sig