Arkadii has loved King Dmitri for years, ever since they were young men and Arkadii was assigned to be Dima’s protector. His sweet flower prince was so full of joy and happiness and the two men were blissful in their love for one another. But after Dima’s father was murdered and Dima became king, his bond with the land destroyed him. Dima pushed Arkadii away, determined to stand on his own, and he has spent the years descending further into bitterness, cruelty, and madness. Now, Arkadii can barely see a glimmer of the man he once knew. Yet, despite it all, Arkadii is determined to stay by Dima’s side.
Dima is filled with nightmares and pain. He knows that the country is dying and it is his fault. He is broken, he is not strong enough to strong enough to make the land live and thrive, and he is the failure. Dima’s father made clear to him that he is far too soft, so Dima felt he needed to separate himself from Arkadii. His love for the man would be a distraction and Dima was determined to prove he could stand on his own. But now, Dima is miserable and the land is dying and he has no idea where to turn.
When Arkadii makes a choice out of desperation that almost leads to Dima’s death, it shocks both men into realizing just how much they want to live and to be together. Finally, rather than pushing Arkadii away, Dima begins to reach for him once more. And Arkadii is determined to be there for Dima as he begins to see the first glimmers of the man he used to know. Helping Dima past the madness and despair that has gripped him will not be easy. But Dima has far more allies than he ever realized. And with Arkadii at his side, for the first time in a long while, Dima finally has hope for the future.
Dragon’s Descent is the third book in the To Kill a King series and closes out the trilogy. This has been and entertaining series and I have been eagerly awaiting Dima and Arkadii’s story. While the first two books focused on Dima’s cousins, Misha and Kostya, Dima has been a prominent part of the overall storyline as the mad king under whose watch the country is dying, so things round out nicely here. These books definitely tell one long story, so you will want to start with Dragon’s Dawn if you are interested in the series.
This book actually opens with a slight timeline overlap with the end of Dragon’s Dusk, giving us Arkadii and Dima’s points of view during the final battle. Then, things skip back in time to let us see the early years between the men as they are falling in love, and then a short glimpse as things start to fall apart for Dima. I think this worked well to give some context to their relationship and show the close emotional bond between the men, as well as give readers a chance to see Dima in his healthier state. I think the authors do a nice job of really showing the deep connection between the men, even in just some brief snapshots of their history. I definitely felt how much they cared for one another and could mourn the loss of their relationship along with them. It is also clear how much both men have been struggling for years as Dima battles his demons and I could really feel for them. However, I found that the book spends a lot of time in this dark place with nothing really moving the plot forward and the situation sort of circling around and around. Both men have suicidal feelings, though in some cases it is less about taking the action themselves as the hope that someone will do it for them. Dima is not always really coherent and so his POV can sometimes be tough to untangle. And, for me, it was just too much time spent with everyone being miserable and nothing really moving forward or progressing in the story for a large segment of the book.
I think part of the problem here is that even after three books, I am still not really clear what exactly happened to Dima. We know he had an early “pre-bonding” with the land, which was successful and wonderful. And then something horrible happened with the real bonding and it all fell apart. But I am still not sure I understand why it didn’t work the way it should. And given that the whole series rests on the idea of Dima being this mad, troubled king as a result of this event, it feels important that it be much more clear just exactly what happened and why. Then, things turn around for the men, and while there is a clear inciting incident in the story, I’m also not clear why this event is what was able to finally spark Dima out of his mental state. So I feel like we needed a lot more clarity here on the details.
The second portion of the book is more uplifting, as we see Dima slowly come back to himself and the romance between him and Arkadii reignite. They are sweet together and there is a very nice tenderness between them. We also get a really lovely resolution to the series arc here, one that brings together all the characters really nicely and just sets things on the perfect path forward. So I think the authors really pull it all together so well and this book gives a satisfying conclusion to the series. I think there have been some gaps in world building and detail across the books, but overall, I have found this one really creative and entertaining. Fans of fantasy, especially series with an overarching plot, definitely should check these out.