It’s the annual Dragon Festival in Sonthofen, Germany. When Alric Burkhard, King of the Fire Dragons, gets word that one of his men has found a mage in the crowd, it is cause for immediate excitement. Dragon clans rely on mages to be their mates and sources of magic, but a mage hasn’t been seen in 500 years. This could be an amazing opportunity for Alric’s clan, and he is eager to meet the man. However, upon talking to the mage, it becomes clear that the man has no idea dragons still exist or that he has magical abilities.
Cameron Park is traveling through Europe for one last hurrah in between getting his master’s degree and starting work as a mechanical engineer and a nice, carefully planned life. The job (or the life) isn’t Cameron’s passion by any means, but he isn’t quite sure what his passion might be. When he meets a gorgeous, charming older man at the festival, Cameron is flattered to have the attention and eager to accept Alric’s offer to show him around the festival and the town. Alric seems to know so much history, particularly stories about mages and dragons. But when Alric tells Cameron that he is actually a mage himself, Cam cannot believe it. He might be able to accept that dragons still live, but believing he himself is a mage is a whole other story.
Alric knows he has to tread carefully for fear of scaring Cameron off. But eventually, Cameron comes to accept he is a mage and becomes quite eager to learn more about magic. He and Alric form a connection as well, as both men are drawn to one another. But Alric knows that a true bond between mage and dragon is something special, and something that may not be immediately detected. He is worried that if he shows his interest in Cam, the other dragons will be afraid to explore a connection if it turns out one of them is Cam’s true mate. Cam isn’t sure why Alric is being so hesitant, and worries maybe the man doesn’t want him after all. But as the connection between them grows, it becomes something neither man can deny. All seems wonderful, as Cameron starts to find his way as part of the clan and think about building a life with Alric and the dragons. But someone else is hunting mages, and they are determined to capture one at any cost. Now it will take all Cameron and Alric have to fight those who want to hurt them and find their happy ending together.
Origin is the first book in A.J. Sherwood and Jocelynn Drake’s new Scales ‘n Spells series and I think it is off to a great start. I am a sucker for dragons and the world building here is really stellar. We learn that dragons and mages used to live and work together. But a huge war led to the near decimation of the dragons, leaving only two clans remaining, while the mages were also almost wiped out and ended up mostly scattered. It’s been 500 years, and while humans used to know about the existence of dragons and magic, now they believe they are all gone. So Cameron enters this world totally unaware that dragons exist, and no idea that he is a mage. It works well in that Cameron is sort of our guide as readers to this world, and we learn along with him. It is richly detailed and nicely developed and I think the authors do a great job building an expansive world without overwhelming the reader with information.
The relationship between Cameron and Alric is sweet and (ultimately) sexy. There is an instant connection between the men and Alric comes in and kind of sweeps Cam off his feet when they meet at the festival. Cameron is so drawn to this sexy, older German man and can hardly believe Alric is paying him so much attention. It is clear that while Cam is valuable to the clan as a mage, Alric is attracted to him as a person as well. There is some back and forth here as Alric definitely wants Cam, but he worries showing too much interest will discourage other dragons from considering Cam as a mate and he doesn’t want to stand in the way of a fated match. But Cam worries Alric isn’t interested because as attracted as he seems to Cameron, Alric is still keeping him at a distance. The conflict makes sense as we learn more about why the war started, as well as get an idea of Alric’s sense of duty and commitment to his clan. And with time, and some strong nudges from family and friends, the guys finally get out of their own way and get together. But this did go on for a little too long for me. Given these guys make such a clear connection early on, and that this book is quite long, I felt like we had to wait too long to see them get together. That said, these guys have such a great dynamic. Cameron is playful and able to help soften some of Alric’s tension and his burden of leadership. Cameron is also strong (and strong-willed) in his own right, and makes a great partner for Alric, both personally and as a ruler. I really liked the dynamic between them and found them a great couple.
Aside from the relationship dynamic, an undercurrent throughout the story is the conflict with someone who is after Cam and the other mages. It gets stirred up early on, and then is mostly on the back burner through the middle of the book until things flare up again. There is some excitement and some chance to see magic, as well as dragon battles, but it isn’t super high intensity. I kind of feel like after a long book and a lot of build up, I would have like to see more from the big climax. But I loved that Cameron is tough and strong and pretty much manages to rescue himself, as well as getting to use some of his fledgling magical abilities. As with the romance, I just felt that the story is really long and not much happens for a lot of the book beyond Cameron getting acclimated to living in the castle and day-to-day dragon life. So when we finally get some action, I didn’t want things to be over so quickly.
So that is really my main issue with the book: for such a long story, not much happens. It takes a lot of time for the relationship to develop, as well as a lot of time before the action happens. It is to the authors’ credit that I was never bored and that I found myself really engaged throughout the story. But I also feel like for a book that is 400+ pages, not enough really happens here to carry such a long story.
The immediate conflicts resolve here in this book (both the relationship and the attack on Cam), but it is clear that the bigger battle is not over and there is more for the dragons to uncover. There are a lot of interesting side characters here, as well as some great world building, so I think there are a lot of great elements to explore in further books. I am really looking forward to seeing where things go for the series.