The king of Llangard has died and his son, Prince Reynold, has assumed the throne. Lord Tristram Radcliffe is Reynold’s cousin and close friend. The men grew up together and now Tristram serves as one of Reynold’s advisors. However, Tristram has a secret that he keeps from everyone: he is actually a half dragon. The humans and dragons have a long and violent history. After the dragons had the humans enslaved, a long ago king with magical abilities helped the humans rise up and break free of the dragon control. Now the dragons are banished to the Mawrcraig Mountains far in the north and both sides live in fear of the other. Tristram knows if anyone finds out he is part dragon, he will be exiled from court… or worse.
Rhiannon is a dragon from the north, and she has come to Llangard hoping to forge an alliance with the humans now that there is a new king. She hopes perhaps her wiles will help attract Reynold and make peace easier to achieve, though of course she must hide that she is a dragon. Unfortunately, not only is Reynold not interested in hearing about any kind of alliance, he is becoming increasingly unstable by the day, acting out violently and rashly. Many of those close to the king are becoming concerned about his behavior, including Tristram; Reynold’s sister, Gillian; and one of his knights, Sidonie.
One man who has always been at Reynold’s side is Bet Kyston, the “king’s shadow.” Reynold brought Bet out of the kitchens to be the man who handles all his less than savory jobs, and Bet feels indebted to Reynold. He may not always agree with the king, but he will do whatever Reynold asks. Bet finds himself drawn to Tristram, but he also knows a noble lord like Tris is not meant for someone like Bet. That doesn’t stop Tristram from returning Bet’s attraction, but Bet keeps him at a distance.
Now, the country is facing new threats from their northern neighbors, an increasingly unbalanced king, and continued conflicts with the dragons. Tristram is dedicated to the well-being of his country and wants to do whatever he can to protect it. But if the truth comes out about his dragon lineage, Tristram could find himself in more danger than he ever imagined.
The King’s Dragon is the first book in the Fire and Valor series and I really loved it. I don’t read much fantasy, but this one captivated me right away. What makes this book particularly unique is the storytelling structure. There is a large ensemble cast and this story is told from many points of view. In addition to chapters in Tristram and Bet’s POVs, we also get POV chapters from five other characters. Some only appear a couple of times, while others, like Rhiannon, have many chapters. It is a really engaging way to tell the story, as we are getting perspectives from a variety of characters who are coming together to tell the tale. This could have been muddled or confusing, or feel like it was taking away from our main characters, but the authors really do a wonderful job with the style. The side characters’ chapters really enhance the storytelling, bringing in new perspectives and adding intrigue as we learn just who knows what about various events. Tristram and Bet still feel like the focal point of the overall story, but the format really befits this ensemble cast and I really enjoyed the style.
The relationship between Bet and Tristram is somewhat slow to develop. There is clearly attraction between the men, and they do act on it, but there is a tension between them that never fully dissipates. Bet is the king’s assassin and thinks himself far too lowly for Tristram. Tristram is all things good and honorable and decent and Bet feels like there could be no future for them. So there is a lot of coming together and pulling apart here, and things never really progress past a strong connection and a lot of lust. This story is the first of the series, so I assume that the relationship will develop further between the men as the books continue, but things are not resolved here. I would have liked to see a bit more between these men, a little more softness, a little more emotion. I assume it will come, but for such a developed book, this felt a little lacking for me.
The story itself is quite engaging, with a lot of moving parts that all come together well. The primary storyline is focused on the dragon threat (or at least the perceived threat through Reynold’s eyes). But there are also side stories, including those relating to Reynold and his son, to the family legacy and the decreasing magical abilities of their family line, and to Rhiannon’s romantic connection with one of the knights. All of these side elements build together into the larger story so nicely. They add a lot of excitement as we watch things develop and come together in interesting ways. I’ll note that this story does leave us hanging on more than the romantic front. Some aspects come to resolution, but other areas are just opening up when the story ends and I definitely had a jaw drop moment just as the book closed. So be prepared for some itchy kindle fingers waiting for the next story to come out, but I think this book is well worth the read now anyway.
So I really enjoyed The King’s Dragon quite a lot. The structure is interesting and really enhances the story, and I found myself thoroughly engaged and swept up in this world. I can’t wait for more!