When a dragon is spotted in a far northern town, Sir Gawain, First Knight of the Realm and brother to the queen, is sent to check things out. Dragons used to be common years ago, but none have been seen in ages. The villagers claim the dragon is eating their livestock and are ready to hunt it down and the queen wants to stop the attack. Dragons are sentient beings who can talk and she wants it protected. So Gawain heads north with a group of knights to intervene and find out what’s going on.
Zephyr was kidnapped as a baby dragon and has been held captive most of his life by an evil mage. He just barely managed to escape, but he is badly wounded and he doesn’t know how much longer he can stay ahead of the villagers hunting him. When Gawain finds him, Zephyr finally has safety and the chance he needs to regain his health and his magic. Zephyr feels comfort with Gawain like he has never experienced and wants nothing more than to keep the knight by his side.
Gawain is determined to protect Zephyr from both the villagers and the mage, so they return home to the palace where hopefully Zephyr can be kept safe. But danger is everywhere along their trip and it will be all Gawain can do to keep his dragon from harm.
Oh, this is such a sweet and lovely story, it gave me such a nice warm, fuzzy feeling while reading it. Zephyr and Gawain connect right away and there is bond you can feel between them from the start. Zephyr feels such happiness and safety with Gawain for the first time in his life, and it isn’t long before he claims Gawain as his own. And Gawain returns the feelings, adoring the dragon and wanting to keep him safe.
S.J. Himes gives us a bit of an unusual spin here in that while Zephyr ultimately does shift into human form, he is not a human/dragon shifter and there is no duality to him as we commonly find in shifter lore. Zephyr is very much a dragon, who just happens to have the ability to shift physical forms, human being one of them. I love that Gawain first connects with Zephyr emotionally in dragon form and he is clear that if Zephyr never wants to appear human, he is fine with that. I loved the unconditional acceptance Gawain shows Zephyr for however he wants to be. Of course, mating requires matching bodies and once Zephyr experiences that, being human has its perks. While Zephyr is at times a bit naive about things and doesn’t always know what is socially appropriate to say in public, it is clear that he is sentient and mature enough to understand his relationship with Gawain, including physical intimacy (something Gawain is sure to clearly confirm). Overall, these guys are just super sweet together with a nice bit of sexy, and the bond between them is strong right from the start.
Where the conflict comes in this story is all external, first with the villagers who want to kill Zephyr and later with the mage who wants him back. This isn’t a high octane story, but we do get some more intense scenes as they face various dangers. This is the first book of the series and the story will continue to follow Gawain and Zephyr, so we don’t get resolution to the mage storyline in this book. However, things do close out nicely for this first story.
I’ll also note that while this is a fantasy story, Himes does a really nice job giving it an authentic historical feel. With the exception of magic and the presence of dragons and a few other magical creatures, this could be a medieval historical and I loved all the details Himes includes, such as specifics on clothing and setting up camp. It adds a nice sense of realism to the book that works well.
So I really enjoyed this one and fell in love with Gawain and Zephyr. I am really looking forward to continuing along on their adventures.