I received this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Asha is the daughter of a king, burned by dragon fire for telling deadly stories she is now tasked with hunting and killing all the dragons to atone for her wicked ways. But what if the stories that she loves so dearly aren’t as dangerous as she and the nation have been led to believe? With the help of several unlikely allies Asha sets out on a quest to free her from an arranged marriage and to finally put the past to rest.
I could not put the book down. From the very first page as we are led through a dragon hunt with Asha to the dramatic ending the book leads you on a story like no other. I loved that the power of telling stories and the power that stories possess to some people was a key part within the narrative. Only a few novels that I have read have managed to capture the feeling as much as Kristen has. I also loved the interjections of the old stories throughout the novel and how they play a key part in events that have yet to unfold – also if you have the hardback edition, I’m unsure of the paperback, I loved the change of paper colour! Words and stories can be dangerous but only if they aren’t respected and loved.
Asha’s deep connection that she feels with these stories is one of the strongest emotions throughout the novel, only rivalled by her desire to protect the ones she loves. The relationship between Asha and her brother was great to read. Unlike other novels there is a clear and deep affection for one another and a willingness to help each other. This is the same with Asha and her cousin. Part of the terms of her being an Iskari is that no one can look at her in the eye or touch her. While her main family and future husband ignore many of these conventions it is her cousin who pushes the boundaries as far as she can. More like sisters then cousins the three of them make a formidable team, if only they would learn to talk to one another.
Her future husband Jarek is a horrible piece of work who deserves everything that comes to him. Taunting and demeaning Asha seem to be the only power he has within the novel. How wrong was I to think that, his evil mind is only rivalled by his hideous actions. As the novel progresses and Asha is given a way out of marrying Jarek the larger narrative begins to unravel, with clues hidden subtly throughout the book it was brilliant to read as they finally came together at the end of the novel. I missed them. I was too engrossed in the narrative to see what was right in front of me. The writing is superb and draws you in further with every word. No word or sentence is out of place, everything matters and everything is out to deceive you.
I would have liked to know more about the dragons. Kozu, the first dragon and the most formidable, has the most information supplied about him but nothing is really said about Shadow, the second dragon who suddenly appears. I would love to know more about their history separate from the people and how they have survived so long while being hunted. Are there others who worship them? How does their power to tell stories work? And where have they been for all this time?
Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without a love interest, and I’m not talking about the sleaze ball Jarek. Torwin, a slave who serves under Jarek has always been there and always watching, which is actually really creepy considering they are now adults but, the lengths he goes to to try and help Asha are serious within the novel. Again as we delve deeper in the story we see just how much he truly cares for Asha as Asha tries to understand her feelings and whether it is appropriate to have feelings for a slave. She continually dismisses her feelings and refuses to acknowledge his right to be free until she it is more than just his life she must save. What I did like was that it wasn’t insta-love. There was a clear progression of feelings, mixed and true, which helped with the realism in this fantasy novel.
From the beginning this book is out to trick you and draw you further in with stories within stories. Asha is a complicated character who wants to right the wrongs of her past and believes that killing these magnificent creatures is the way. The story is complex, beautiful and truly encapsulating. All need to read this book.