I'm a huge dragon fan and when I ran out of typical dragon books to listen to, I tried the shapeshifting dragon in human body romance novel genre. I've now read books in three such series, but I think I have to rank this series at the bottom.
First, the author makes a lot of references to actual products, from beers to phones to shoes. This might be an attempt to make the story seem more real or relatable, but it seems more likely they were paid product placements and I found them a little jarring.
The story seemed to jump back and forth between heavy and often gory action scenes and romantic emotional scenes in a way that felt oddly forced, like the author was trying hard to interest the stereotypical action-oriented male and romantic-oriented female readers. Characters often seemed to go out of character a bit just to create various conflicts or situations that weren't entirely believable. In fact, the whole mythos of the story seemed contrived to create this artificial need for an all-male race of dragons to suck energy from human females while giving them incredible pleasure as if to provide an excuse for them to have a romance (or at least to have sex). But I will give the story points for not devolving into a series of too many inexplicable sex scenes like one of the other similar series I read. In fact, I think there's really only one explicit scene in the whole book, and a couple glossed-over scenes.
I think my main problem with the story was that Bastian (the main good-guy dragon man) was too powerful and faced too few actual challenges. He mysteriously won most battles with little obvious effort, seeming to majorly outclass his opponents for little obvious reason. VAGUE SPOILER ALERT: Even when the main villain in the series set up this big, supposedly cunning trap for Bastian, and even when Myst (the main female human love interest) found out about the trap, she never tried to warn Bastian (which made no sense at all) and Bastian avoided the trap simply by spotting it a little before it sprung and asking one of his buddies to thwart it, which they did easily. Huh? Basically the final battle scene felt like an old Gi Joe episode where they're flying through a cloud of bullets and never getting hit while easily taking out waves of enemies for no apparent reason.
END SPOILER ALERT
If you like dragons, at least you get a fairly good dose of them in this book, but they rarely felt like dragons. They felt like humans fighting in dragon bodies or even fighting in jet planes (yes, dragons were described as "going supersonic" a number of times, I guess with the aid of magic). The dragons sometimes even fought like humans, using a punch where a bite or a breath weapon would have made more sense. You also get a large dose of enemy dragons getting fairly graphically brutalized, so if that bugs you, stay away.
As to the love story between Bastian and Myst, it was decent. Kind of contrived. The only real reason she had to fall for him was a mysterious energy attraction thing and the way he was so strong and protective of her. I guess some women really go for that. But I did find both characters to be likable and interesting, so I did enjoy seeing them get together in the end (as if that wasn't inevitable in this kind of book). Rykar and Angela (a second love interest obviously set up to be the central theme of the second book) were also likable characters. However, the end of the book played out pretty much as I predicted it would, which is never a good thing. I'd much rather be surprised.
Oh, and my wife found the pacing/tone at which the narrator read the story to be kind of annoying and found his voice acting to be a bit unemotional in areas that required emotion. I actually thought the tone of the narrator went with the almost military style of the action scenes, but it was a little unusual for the non action scenes. The most noticeable odd thing was he would say "Blah blah blah and..." and then pause before continuing the rest of the sentence. I actually didn't mind that aspect of the reading and... sometimes it even helped build suspense.
For an erotic novel (or, short story, really), I didn't find it very erotic. It definitely had sex, but every scene felt abbreviated and rushed with too little description. It's too bad because the story has an interesting and unusual plot which could have made a great story if it were better written. If you're looking for vanilla sex, romance, or even the typical set of positions and activities you see in an average porn movie, you won't find any of that here.
The voice of the narrator fit well with the story and was pleasant to listen to but I only give the performance 3 stars because there was a lot of distracting and inappropriate pauses between lines. I don't know if that's just sloppy editing or maybe they wanted to stretch the story a little to make it appear longer.
The story is just too short to say much more about it without at least hinting at a lot of what happens in it, so if you absolutely don't want any clues about what happens, stop reading now.
This story involves a lot of the less common erotic kinks out there. If you like unbirthing, semen play, transformation, painful sex, or chastity belts, you might like this one, but as I said it moves so quickly through pretty much everything I think it would be hard to get much out of it even if you like any of those subjects.
I'm a dragon fan and am always looking for books where the dragons are the good guys, and if they operate autonomously instead of acting as a steed for some human hero, that's even better. I was surprised to find there are 4 or 5 series available on Audible where shape-shifting dragons in human form have relationships with human or at least non-dragon women. I'm not usually into the "romance novel" genre, but I couldn't resist the autonomous dragons (even though it sucks they mostly stay human).
The first series I tried was by Katie MacAlister. I like it for the humor, but the "dragons" just feel like humans with a high libido, dominance issues, and a lot of "power". The relationships feel forced and unnatural and the sex scenes feel gratuitous. I've only read two books but the "dragons" never even bother to shift into dragon form.
This is all different with Thea's first book. You get to "see" the handsome bronze and black dragon outside the human shell a few times, and the relationship he has with Pia actually makes sense and progresses in a believable fashion. Her instant attraction to him still seems odd and reminiscent of Katie's books, but she doesn't just jump on him the first time he shows interest. When they do mate, it's actually quite erotic, and the sex scenes happen at logical times instead of feeling thrown in (mostly). Further, this dragon is a surprisingly good lover, unlike Katie's dragons who are simply dominant and selfish in bed with the women still loving it for no logical reason.
So, if you like dragons or romance novels, this one's definitely worth your time.
I so wish I hadn't bought three of these books because of all the positive (but low in number) reviews.
Much like the previous two books, nobody ever really seems in any danger. All they usually do is pray to Wulder and get rescued by Paladin or their friends. The only thing positive I can say about this one is there was slightly more character development of the meech dragon and Bardon's dragon (since I'm a dragon fan). This book brought the amount of pseudo-Christian preaching to a new level of absurdity and it was very distracting from what little there was of an adventure story.
I was also offended that despite all the preaching, slavery was never talked about as a bad thing. Of the two slave characters I remember in the three books I've read, both seemed of the mind that because they were treated decently by their masters and taken care of, they were happy. You're left with the impression that slavery is fine as long as you pray to Wulder and follow his grand unknowable plan. Blah. Yeah, I don't mind slavery being portrayed as acceptable to fantasy or historic cultures, but this whole series was such a transparent attempt at teaching lots of little Christian lessons/morals, the fact they treat slavery as acceptable is not acceptable to me. Kale never looks back unkindly at her former masters and never goes on any quests to free slaves. Any slaves that are freed are by accident while fighting the "low races", aka "minions of Pretender (Satan)".
Also, the audio narrator of the first three books was terrible. The high pitch of her voice actually kept hurting my wife's ears and whenever she tried to "sing" I wished audible's android player had a skip forward 30 seconds button.
I'm just glad I didn't accidentally buy any more of these books.
I usually like any story with non-evil dragons in it, but this one was hard to sit through. The dragons themselves were one-dimensional, little more than props. The two dragons may as well have been replaced with a healing stone and a singing stone.
The story was meant to be an adventure, but it had no drama. Any time anyone was in "danger" it was clear that Jesus, I mean Paladin, or God, I mean Walder, would step in and save them. Either that or their own faith in Paladin/Walder would save them.
The periods of "danger" were mixed with regular breaks of showing how good and perfect all the "high races" were or how evil the "low races" were. Just like in many religions, either you were a "chosen" one, or you were damned.
With the lack of drama, I would say this would be a good book for young kids, except that the story is a thinly veiled attempt to brainwash them into embracing Christianity or some similar religion. Anecdotes about how wonderful and amazing Paladin and Walder are were followed by descriptions of rapturous joy filled with the presence of Walder that made no sense. This might be followed by a lecture about how Walder's plan is far too complicated for you to understand and you need to mindlessly follow Walder and everything will work out. Finally, you might learn that Satan, I mean Pretender, was the ultimate evil and if you didn't follow Walder's plan, you'd end up in Hell, I mean "The Void". Ack.
So, if you're a devoutly religious person, you may love this book, but for anyone looking for an interesting or well-written story instead of a preachy sermon, look elsewhere.
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