raven part 1 coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Sorin is a Pedigree omega and he should have been contracted to a dragon, born a clutch, and be living the rest of his life in luxury. However, instead Sorin has been taken by dragon after dragon, forced to mate, and then torn away from his eggs and sold to another dragon. Sorin still mourns the three clutches he had taken from him, can still hear the cries of his children calling out for him. And now, he is once again being forced to breed, this time with a madman of a dragon who is torturing and experimenting upon him — with plans to do the same to the eggs. When the dragon dies in a pool of blood, Sorin knows he will be blamed and his life forfeit.

Bertram Drake was separated from his family as a child and raised to be an agent for the dragon council. He is expected to have total allegiance to the council, and Betram has always has done exactly what is asked. When he is called onto the scene of a dead dragon and a seemingly crazed omega, Bertram plans to do just as instructed and put the omega to death. Instead, he gives the man a chance to escape and decides to raise the clutch himself. Bertram figures he can falsify the records to make it seem like he fathered the children through legal means.

Sorin was told to flee, to leave his eggs and try to make a life for himself, keeping one step ahead of the dragons who will certainly be hunting him. However, Sorin is not going to lose another clutch and is determined to track down the dragon who took them. When the men finally reconnect, Bertram is clear that Sorin’s life is forfeit, but he also fears that Sorin may have already bonded with the eggs and his death could hurt the developing babies. So he agrees to let Sorin live until the eggs hatch, at which point he will kill Sorin and raise the children as his own.

At first, Sorin can’t do anything but hate Bertram, as he hates all dragons for what they do to omegas. Sorin knows that egg madness is a lie; omegas do not go crazy if they touch their eggs, there is no reason to separate omegas from their clutch. He also knows that too many omegas are in terrible circumstances just like his own, despite what Bertram and the council believe. But the more time the men spend together, Sorin begins to see there is more to Bertram than a rigid tool of the council. Bertram starts to listen to Sorin’s story and want to help. The two men begin to fall for one another and form a real partnership as parents of the clutch. They also begin to work together, secretly, to help find a way to save Pedigree omegas who are being hurt and abused by the system. But the work they are doing goes against the council and the rest of the dragon world. If they are caught, it could be the end of both their lives.

Raven is the final book in the Forbidden Desires series, or more accurately, this is part one of the final two-book set. This book tells the first half of the story and covers the time from the men meet (in what I think is around the 1700s in Scotland) through about the start of the main series timeline. The series books are very interconnected, both from a character standpoint, as well as the plot and world building, so this one is best read by those familiar with at least the basics of the series (and ideally who have read the original first three books). The most recent book in this series (Peregrine) came out in 2021 and the series started way back in 2018 with Clutch, so I have been eagerly anticipating this final story. I will admit that this one started rough for me, however, and I struggled a lot with about the first quarter of the book. However, once it settled down, I found myself enjoying this one overall.

We jump into the action as Sorin is laying his clutch, desperately trying to be quiet for fear that the dragon who bought him and has been abusing him will find out and ruin any chance he has of escaping with his eggs. Bertram is then sent by the council to kill Sorin as punishment for the dragon’s death. This story takes place far in the past before dragon-kind learned the truth about omegas actually being a type of dragon, as well as before they understood that touching their eggs doesn’t lead to madness. Bertram is also coming into this situation not only used to following the instructions of the council without question, but also with assumptions about omegas informed by the understanding of that time. However, even knowing all this, I still struggled with Bertram’s actions. Sorin is a man who was forced into the Pedigree and expected to breed with a dragon and have his children taken away. As if that is not bad enough, he is instead sold by dragon after dragon, forced to breed and lose his children. Then, his current dragon is torturing and experimenting upon him and planning on doing the same to the eggs. Instead of protecting him, the council cares so little they want to kill him. And while Bertram does let Sorin escape at first, he doesn’t let him take the eggs. Instead, Bertram decides he will just take them and raise the children as his own. Bertram almost immediately begins referring to the eggs as his and acting like he is entitled to raise the the kids once born. When Sorin tracks him down, Bertram tells him outright that he will murder him when the eggs hatch. So we have a romantic hero that has essentially kidnapped these eggs/children and plans to murder their parent with zero remorse for either decision. In the midst of this, Sorin somehow still wants Bertram and has sex with him and the two are lovingly caring for the eggs together, as if Bertram hasn’t just stolen Sorin’s eggs and doesn’t still plan to kill him at this point. It just didn’t work for me at all and I couldn’t warm up to Bertram for quite a while. Eventually, things settle down as Bertram does not, in fact, kill Sorin. He begins to listen to Sorin and to believe the horror stories Sorin tells him about his experiences. We see the two men building a relationship, as well as working together to help the omegas. So we get there eventually, but it was a tough start.

Now, once I got past the first quarter or so, the story came together much better. Sorin is determined to help the omegas, with or without Bertram’s help. And Bertram struggles, as he has been raised to believe the council knows what is best and to follow them blindly. So we see some nice growth from Bertram as the story continues and he begins to think for himself and take action to help the omegas. We hear about more of the action in terms of the rescues that take place than we actually see, and I would have loved a little more of that on page, but I think it comes together nicely and ties in well with what we already know from prior stories. For example, we see a scene from Sorin and Bertram’s perspective that takes place in Peregrine, which I found clever. This historical bent of this story also lets us see the Drakes and the rest of the dragon world before all the changes of modern day, so it gave some added perspective on the family. I am not sure things hold up as well for Grimbold, Betram’s father, as he comes across pretty horrible here. I think if we hadn’t had him as a hero in Swallow, it would have worked a little better, but it was hard to see this man we were supposed to root for in his own book be so terrible here. But overall, I enjoyed the way the timeline works and how the story leads us from their first meeting through present day.

This is a pretty long story at over 350 pages, which is a lot for just part one of the book. Having not read the second part yet, I can’t say whether the overall story could have been tightened, but I do think this one was pretty long. I couldn’t always tell how much time was passing and the timeline didn’t always make total sense to me. For example, after years of the men being together, Sorin goes into heat and it feels like this is a new, novel thing (the guys seem surprised and struggle with how to keep from mating, as neither wants Sorin to get pregnant). I therefore assumed that this was the first time he went into heat, but it turns out it happens every six months. So I was unclear why they were both so caught off guard if this has happened already so many times. Also, we see Grimbold come and the kids are so excited to see him and appear to know him well. But then we learn it has been ten years since he has been there, and at that time the eggs were just hatched. So how are the kids so familiar with him? It just felt like the timeline gets a little squishy here at points.

As a note, this story deal with some subjects that may be triggering, including implied rape, as well as references to Sorin being abused (though neither are detailed). We also experience Sorin’s pain at having his eggs taken from him and he experiences extreme mental anguish at losing his children. So use caution if these are sensitive topics for you.

Overall, I found this an interesting story and liked learning about the history of events leading up to the present day world of the rest of the series. I did struggle in the beginning quite a lot with Bertram, but once things settled between him and Sorin, it worked much better for me. I ended up liking them together and enjoyed the way they worked to free the omegas. I think this story sets the stage nicely for the final book and I am really eager to see how the last story brings it all together.

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