Raiden is the eldest son and heir to the throne of the Sixth Realm, one of seven realms in their land. Legend tells that the whole land was once united by a king who had a dragon who aided him in fighting. The king then split his kingdom in seven parts, one for each of his children. Prophesy foretells another king will rise to unite the realms again, again aided by a dragon. However, as centuries pass, the legends are forgotten.
Raiden’s land is well-managed and governed by his father, King Rodick. The people are happy and prosperous, more so than the adjacent Fifth Realm. There, King Tarjak’s high taxes and harsh rule have ruined the wealth of the people. Land mismanagement has also caused problems. Tarjak is cunning, and when he reaches out to Rodick for assistance, it turns into an ambush. Rodick is nearly mortally wounded and Raiden is shaken. At seventeen, he’s not emotionally prepared to rule. Once he knows his dad is stable, he escapes the castle to find some solace and that’s when he encounters Egan.
Egan is roughly Raiden’s age, but his life has been vastly different. As a dragon shifter, he’s always needed to keep his magic to himself. His mother knows, of course, but his father was killed by Tarjak’s men before they fled to Rodick’s kingdom. Egan’s mother remarried to a blacksmith, one who is proud and immutable. He doesn’t care much for Egan and finds his stubbornness to be trying. He trains Egan to be his gopher and lackey, until Prince Raiden meets him at the market to commission an expensive gift. Raiden does this so he can free Egan for an afternoon, and tell him he’s discovered Egan’s alter ego. It’s scary for Egan, but Raiden is trustworthy and honorable. He finds Egan to be fascinating, and their mutual regard begins to reveal itself in small ways—particularly when their time together is fraught by the rising conflict with Tarjak’s forces. Scouts reveal that Tarjak’s armies are amassing for battle, and it’s up to Raiden to travel to a friendly land and build an alliance. The way forward is difficult and Egan’s strength in his dragon form is incomparable. He proves time and again that he is a worthy match for Raiden, whose esteem is only growing.
This is a YA fantasy romance that features a young prince and the dragon shifter he befriends. It is the beginning of a series and introduces the legends and traditions of this land. Raiden is a sweet young man, and beloved by his subjects. His growing relationship with Egan is picture-perfect YA fantasy. Neither boy really knew they were into men, but the moments of emotional intimacy, for the first time sharing secrets of their lives with another, quickly enlightens them. I loved how they are so considerate and tentative as they begin to explore bits of physical intimacy.
This is an adventure, as well as a romance, and the pacing is quick, with good sequences of activity balanced by introspection. I also loved how the soldiers tease Raiden about Egan, but soon learn to respect Egan’s skills—even if they do not know the full extent of it. I felt that the book ended in a good spot, with a lull before the next bout of big action, and the love story firmly established. I would honestly love to read on and find out how Raiden and Egan work to fulfill the prophecy, and develop a deep love with one another.