Dragon males outnumber females two to one, but Ryu — born to a noble bloodline with his ink-black scales — is destined for a mate. At least, so says his mother. She intends her son to sire children, to further their lineage and do her proud. The only problem with this is that Ryu wants a male mate; it’s not unheard of for a male dragon to be gay, and there are many dragons who simply head into the human realms across the veil to live lives unencumbered by dragon politics. But none of those lucky dragons are Ryu, whose mother has no intention of letting him leave.
A chance accident gives Ryu the opportunity to take the place of another dragon who lives on the other side of the veil with a human mate. A dragon who just so happens to now be dead. Taking the key to his new hoard and the papers that allow him to live in the human world, Ryu is off to enjoy his freedom.
Egil was gifted to the dragon Draken in order for his city to live peacefully. Dragons wanted mates, and the city offered up willing — or mostly willing — young unmarried men and women no one wanted to placate the dragons and keep themselves safe from the depredations of the immoral and immortal creatures. Draken was … not kind. Slaving in the book shop, Elgin learned to fear and obey the dragon he was bound to. When Draken was called away to serve in some dragon war, Egil was delighted! It meant months of freedom, safety, peace, and sleeping in the bed rather than on the floor. Everything is going well enough until Draken returns.
Only … since when did Draken smile at him? When did Draken stop liking coffee? And when did Draken grow in height and breadth, and with noticeably darker skin? And what does this mean for Egil?
This is a light, fast read with hints of a deeper story hidden within the novella. The world of the book is a mix of modern day and somewhat medieval, with jeans, coffee machines, bookstores, and the affectionate babe thrown out, as well as magic and flying, fire-breathing dragons. To be honest, I had no feel for the world at all, and even the dragon culture — what little there was of it — was just as vague. However, I do appreciate that Ryu’s first instinct when facing someone he didn’t like was to just eat them and get it all over with.
Ryu is arrogant, thoughtless, vain, entitled, and yet … good hearted, for all that. When he eats the last of Egil’s food, he has no thought for his poor hungry human. But when he sees the scars on Egil’s back, he’s outraged that someone dared hurt the person he now sees as his property. Egil, who survived an abusive relationship with Draken, falls sharply and deeply into an eager-to-please earnestness for the dragon who treats him with a modicum of kindness. It doesn’t feel like love, on either side. For Ryu, it seems like possession. For Egil, it’s self-preservation. If he doesn’t have a dragon mate, he has nothing, and living on the streets isn’t appealing. Their relationship eases into a sort of friendliness and acceptance, but not love, which I appreciate. Egil isn’t in the right headspace for love, and Ryu’s only known him for maybe a week.
The villain of the book is a human who thinks he has control over dragons, that he can order them about the way he orders the humans of his city. And he’s right. They never really do anything to challenge his ideas; they just ignore him, which has the whole conflict feeling … unneeded. He’s not evil enough to be a real villain, not developed enough to be a real character, and his brief cameo at the end is confusing. It’s as if he showed up just to remind me he existed without actually bringing closure to the plot. So, all in all, despite some of the good points, this book is a bit of a mess.
Personally, I’d pass on this story and wait to see what more the author has up their sleeve. Maybe in future books the storytelling will be as strong as the characterization, if not better.