Fire and Valor: The King’s Dragon – W.M Fawkes & Sam Burns
Lord Tristram Radcliffe has a secret—he is the only dragon at the king’s court in Llangard. It’s a secret he’s kept from the knights he’s fought beside, from the ladies who bat their lashes at him, and from his closest companion, Prince Reynold. If it were to get out, he’d be banished to the Mawrcraig Mountains along with the rest of his kind, but the kingdom of men is the only one he’s ever known, and his heart lives in the stone halls of those who’d count him an enemy.
When the old king dies and Prince Reynold takes the throne, two visitors from the north throw Tristram into the middle of the ancient conflict between dragons and men. They put him on a collision course with the king’s shadow, Bet Kyston, a dangerous assassin who may want him dead or may want more of Tristram that he’d ever thought to give.
With the eyes of dragons upon him and a threat from the north creeping toward the home he loves, Tristram must weigh his allegiances before his dual legacies tear him apart.
As a lazy reader, high fantasy books are challenging for me, particularly the world-building. I am not keen on reading info-dumps about grimy taverns, the default euro-centric medieval settings, nor am I impressed with knights in their clunky tin can armors. The magic, though, is always fun!
So it was no surprise that I struggled with The King’s Dragon, Book 1 of Fire and Valor by writer duo W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns. But then, the book slowly but surely entangled me in its gripping plot, awesome characters, and daring rescue missions.
The plot is a very intriguing blend of kingdom politics, lost magic, family drama, and, of course, dragons! A dead king just buried, a new king celebrating in a kingdom once filled with magic, but now, the only royal magician and sister to the king, Princess Gillian, can barely perform a spell.
It’s a particularly precarious situation for the kingdom of Llandgard, whose enemies from the north might be making a move. These enemies are stopped only by the dragons in the mountains, the dragons who once enslaved humans, the dragons the king and his people reviled and banished through magic. Unknown to them, dragons are currently in their midst during the celebrations.
The story is paced too slow for me. It is in multiple POVs, a whomping seven on my count. It took a while for me to get the lay of the land. I got whiplash, shifting from one POV to another, never knowing which character you’ll get next. This further slowed the narrative for me.
So it’s lucky that the authors picked the perfect narrators for their series because they kept me engaged. Greg Boudreaux is always a pleasure to listen to, and new-to-me narrator Lessa Lamb played the enchanting females perfectly with her Disney princess voices.
Another plus, is that the world-building didn’t drag or info-dumped too much. It is a medieval Euro-centric setting with none of the religious fanaticism, with equal opportunities for anyone, and lots of queer characters.
Halfway, I became fully invested. Everything slowly came together. The pace finally picked up as the thrilling buildup set several things in motion all at once, leading to the explosive climatic scene. I loved how the ending resolved things satisfyingly while also dropping me off a cliff so suddenly I was left with my mouth hanging open.
This series has an ensemble cast and they each stand out.
Lord Tristram Radcliffe – knight and cousin to King Reynold. Rumored to be a bastard, secretly a half-dragon, hoards pointy objects, notices the king’s shadow, Bet, far too much for his liking. Righteous, loyal and conscientious especially about his duty to Llandgard. Basically Captain America, knight version.
Bennet Kyston – an open secret known as the king’s shadow a.k.a. assassin a.k.a. doer of dirty deeds. Agile, deadly, and loyal to King Reynold who gave him a home. Secretly crushes hard on Tristram but knowing he’s too low-born for such noble knight, could only look and not touch.
King Reynold – the new king celebrating the start of his reign with a party and tournament. Seemed okay at the start but later was acting a little too paranoid and cruel for anyone’s liking. A hint was thrown casually as to why this is that will be picked up in later installments.
Sir Sidonie – a high-ranking knight in the king’s guard, she was from a peasant family but rose in ranks through skills and hard-work. A friend to Tristram and just as loyal to the king, she couldn’t help noticing the new Lady Rhiannon who’s lavishing her considerable charms on the king
Lady Rhiannon – a lady on a mission and a dragon with a plan. She came to court with her foster son, Hafgan, to change the king’s mind about dragons. She might flirt with the king, but a certain female knight is more to her taste.
Princess Gillian – sister to the new king and the only Cavendish left with magic. She has no interest in the throne and Reynold crowned gave her freedom. She is Tris’s friend and one of the few who knew his secret. The tumultuous court events led her outside the castle walls and I am excited to see where her adventures take her.
Hafgan – a young dragon whose entire clan was wiped out. Rhiannon found his egg and claimed him as her own ever since. Didn’t play too much role in the story but I expect bigger things from him in the following books.
Prince Roland – the nine year old heir to the king who barely bothers with his son. Frequently overlooked and underestimated, Roland plays his cards close to his sleeves and has some surprises of his own that might shock his father. He considers Tristram and Bet as the only people in court who acknowledges him as a person.
I always say this, it’s a testament to the authors’ characterization that I could name their side characters. The main couple here is Tristram and Bet. These two played their intense enemies-to-lovers game so deliciously! Usually, they would be all I care about, but I remember the supporting cast quite well.
Rhiannon and Sidonie’s romance blossomed parallel to the main romance. These two were a breath of fresh air in the dank atmosphere of royal madness and paranoia. They have the most bombastic escape scene! Hoping for more of these badass women in the next books.
The King’s Dragon deftly wove multiple POVs, twist and turns, secrets and lies, magic and dragons, knights and assassins, and a royal family fighting for their legacy and future. It’s slow-burn magic from two skilled authors. Before I knew it, I went from meh to HELL YEAH!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of The King’s Dragon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.