Talons of Love is the third book in the Dragon King series and should be read in order. Details from this review may reveal elements from previous titles.
Egan and Prince Raiden both live in the Sixth Realm of their world, a place ruled by Raiden’s just and fair father. Their realm has been under attack by the Fifth, a land of greed and avarice, though they are at peace for the moment. These young men—both nearly 18 years of age–found one another by chance only a few weeks ago, when Raiden slipped from a cliff and Egan saved him, while also revealing his biggest secret: he’s a dragon shifter. Their connection has grown to be so strong that Egan and Raiden have sworn themselves to one another, making a heart bond that allows them to communicate emotions and even thoughts telepathically, as long as Egan is in his dragon form.
Egan is out for a fly, doing some reconnaissance near the border with the Fifth Realm, when he goes suddenly and inexplicably missing. Raiden feels it immediately and knows that Egan must be in grave danger—either mortally wounded or captured—so he plans a rescue mission. The strength of their heart bond will help guide his course.
Naturally, heading into enemy territory must be done covertly, so Raiden adapts his looks to that of a merchant, and travels with only two guards, as well as Egan’s stepfather, who is a blacksmith. Their travels are daring and fraught with danger, but nothing like the hell that Egan is enduring. His worst nightmares are tormenting him night and day to steal the essence of his magic, or force him, as well as other captive dragons, to produce weapons that would easily kill them, or any mortal man. It’s a dark and hideous experience, but the connection with Raiden keeps him from giving up all hope. While their struggles are different, Raiden and Egan are both agonized by the lack of physical connection. And, they definitely fear that changes they are experiencing might be pulling them apart, even if they reunite.
This is an emotional journey, as well as a physical one, with both Raiden and Egan having such bitter moments. They both suffer a lot, but there is new hope for the future as they work to rescue Egan and other dragons who need shelter. The anti-dragon racism that was only hinted at in previous stories is in full view here. Despite the fantasy setting, the heart of this story is in the relationship between Raiden and Egan, who might be the subject of a prophecy to restore balance to the Realms. The love between Egan and Raiden is deepening, accelerated by their mutual suffering. The reunion is poignant, and demonstrates to each young man how important it is for them to be whole and safe and together.
I love the detail and the plot pacing of this story, and I’m eager to read on. It’s a suitable read for YA readers and those who like YA, so do not expect much in the way of steam—unless it’s pouring out of Egan’s nostrils. That said, I cannot wait to get the next book in this series. The magic is fully believable and realized, the bad guys only keep revealing their depravity, and the need for strong and compassionate leaders is growing more critical by the day.