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    REVIEW: The Prince’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    Fire and Valor: The Prince’s Dragon – W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    The last place Lord Tristram Radcliffe ever expected to find himself was right hand to the Llangardian throne. His parentage should have seen him banished, but he managed to keep his draconic secret. Now, King Reynold is dead. Long live King Roland.

    The boy ascends to rule a kingdom in chaos, and Tristram must undo the damage of the last king’s reign to save his people from lean winter and wolves in the palace itself. Reynold’s former shadow, Bet Kyston, is determined to root out King Roland’s enemies, but his version of help may cause as much harm as good.

    There remains a traitor near to the throne, and when the king falls mysteriously ill, Tristram’s strongest ally is forced to leave court. As his enemies move closer, the strength of Tristram’s regency is more precarious than ever. Abandoned and friendless, Tristram must sacrifice everything to protect his homeland or risk not only Roland’s life, but his own.


    The Prince’s Dragon is the second book of Fire and Valor, an engrossing high fantasy series by writer duo W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns. The books are not standalone since they end in cliffhangers.

    The story picks up immediately after the events of The King’s Dragon. The new king, Roland, was poisoned and now lies in his sick bed. The Regent, Lord Tristram Radcliff, with help from his lover, Bet Kyston, does his best to balance court duties and going toe to toe with traitorous Cavendish relatives hungry for power.

    Meanwhile dragons are attacking dragons and holding captives. Among those captured was the young dragon Hafgan. The summer clan suffered severe losses, and are moving south to somewhere near the court. (I have no idea how to spell the names of places since I’m audiobooking this so I will not attempt)

    The book is still in multiple POVs, with new ones introduced. Now that I am familiar with the Fire and Valor world, the shift in POVs didn’t hinder anymore. I was able to focus more on the narrative and enjoy the tale as it unfolds.

    This time, the different POVs worked better at giving us the bigger picture and a more detailed look at the world, especially outside the court, connecting different faraway characters.

    Lord Regent Tristam Radcliff – not interested in the throne, never will be now that he knows first hand what a headache it is to run a kingdom. But as the only person King Roland trusts to be his proxy, Tris takes his duties to heart and will defend king and Llandgard, and a certain half-elf, to death. His big scene in the ending was BAM!

    Bet Kyston – ninja elf, a.k.a. assassin, a.k.a. king’s shadow, became my favorite character here. I felt sorry for how he was abandoned by his mother. I loved how his character grew. Bet has no problems sticking a knife to whoever hurt the boy king, legalities be damned. That he loves sticking things in the lord regent, is an ongoing bet in knightly circles.

    Rhiannon – currently healing in the special pool in the monastery. The fierce dragon is surprisingly shy, or is it vain, to show herself to Sidone while she’s recuperating. Struck a bargain with Princess Gillian while there. I’d love to see Rhiannon in battle once more.

    Sir Sidone – this knight stuck with her lady through thick and thin. Not much going on with her in this installment, but I’d love to see her in action in the future astride her dragon because that would be so cool!

    Bowen – a grizzled old stone dragon forced to sell his fellow dragons to slavery. That his hoard is pretty delicate flowers might be a sign that his tough exterior hides a marshmallow heart.

    Hafgan – our sweet sunshine dragon who might just win the heart of an old warrior like Bowen.

    Lady Elinor – Tris’s beloved mom is in for a surprise reunion with a long lost love, who is a mild-mannered bookworm, or should I say, bookdragon.

    Princess Gillian – learned more magic and found romance outside the castle walls. I’m counting on her for spectacular displays of magic. It’s unfortunate that the plot is about lost magic so there’s barely any spells here. Gillian on the tower protecting the city is the most we got.

    Maddox – was pretty surly at first, but this summer dragon turned out to be a great love interest for the princess. His internal thoughts, a.k.a. grudges with Tristram, whom he has yet to meet, were amusing. Turns out they got along splendidly.

    Dragon – a cinnamon roll dragon in captivity. Rescue this sweet little soul now!

    This series gets better with each installment. The pace here is faster, the tension is tighter, and overall, more dynamic as new secrets are revealed and various groups are in motion, either as enemies, fugitives or rescuers.

    Woven through the already potent mix of court politics and dragon action are the romantic threads that give us more things to get hooked on. And there’s something for everyone. The main couple are Tristram and Bet, and their romance is giving me LIFE! Rhiannon and Sidone took theirs to another level. Gillian and Maddox are fantastic together after their initial antagonistic encounter.

    Overall, Fire and Valor hit its stride with The Prince’s Dragon. It had me in its grip from beginning to end. The intrigue, the romance, the adventure, this is more than just slow burn magic. This is a thrilling dragon ride!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Hadaka no Yuusha
    Artist: Vaundy
    Album: Replica

    P.S.

    Fire and Valor should be read in order. Witness royals come and go, and dragons in and out of scales in The King’s Dragon.


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    REVIEW: The King’s Dragon by W.M Fawkes & Sam Burns

    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!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Masquerade
    Artist: Elina
    Album: In Hindsight


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    REVIEW: Evolved by N.R. Walker

    Evolved – N.R. Walker

    In 2068, androids are an integrated part of human life. Big Brother no longer just watches from the shadows. It’s in every household.

    Lloyd Salter has OCD issues with noise and mess, and he’s uncomfortable with human interaction. When his ex claimed the only thing perfect enough to live up to his standards was an android, Lloyd dismissed it. But two years later, after much self-assessment, he thinks he may have been right.

    SATinc is the largest manufacturer of androids in Australia, including the Fully Compatible Units known as an A-Class 10. Their latest design is the Synthetic Human Android UNit, otherwise known as SHAUN.

    Shaun is compatible to Lloyd’s every need; the perfect fit on an intellectual and physical basis. But Lloyd soon realises Shaun’s not like other A-Class androids. He learns. He adapts. Sure that SATinc is aware Shaun functions outside of his programmed parameters, Lloyd must find a way to keep Shaun safe.


    This is the second time I try reading Evolved. The first time was in 2018, when it was first released. I struggled so much with the book that I DNF’ed. I still have the draft of my initial thoughts on it and already have a song for it. The review was pretty negative, and since I didn’t finish reading, I didn’t post it.

    I thought I try my luck again, and this time, I was determined to see it through. I would like to say second time’s the charm, but no. It was still a struggle. Though I could see the good parts, and they made it worth it.

    First, the plot is pretty standard for human/android romances.

    Philosophy professor and perpetual loner Lloyd Salter purchased a Class A Companion Android, Shaun, from SATInc. Shaun was programmed to be fully compatible with Lloyd’s personality and sexual preferences. Class A Androids are the most human-like of all the android classes, but Lloyd was starting to notice Shaun is evolving far beyond his Class A capabilities.

    My first reaction to this is, gay Absolute Boyfriend, anyone? Technosexual romances, or even just the usual sci fi story, almost always feature androids evolving or acting as human-like as possible. My Star Trek crush, Data, being an early example.

    I got pretty bored with how most of the plot revolves around Shaun’s androidness. It felt a lot like how older MM romances frequently revolved around the person’s sexuality. Maybe because I’ve seen it done a million times already, I would have preferred Lloyd be a bit cynical rather than being too star-struck by Shaun.

    Which brings us to the main character. The story is in Lloyd’s first person POV. This was a tough hurdle for me because I don’t like Lloyd at all. I don’t actively hate him. It’s just if we were boyfriends or roommates, we’ll probably end up killing each other. We’re the same and opposites in all the wrong ways.

    Lloyd has OCD and mysophobia. He is socially awkward and has only one friend. I could sympathize as a fellow loner, but I don’t like Lloyd’s sterile version of perfection. I want to introduce him to kintsugi so he could appreciate how flaws can make something perfect in an interesting way. He’d probably hate the discordant beauty of punk while I revel in it.

    And just like him, my lack of social skills and the scarcity of people who can tolerate my difficult personality, I wouldn’t be surprise if I settle for an android companion in the future.

    However, N.R. Walker is a master of her craft. The storytelling was engaging, the prose written in a way that makes it easy to read, even through some challenging scenes. The sci fi elements were well-conceived, and if Shaun got too technical in his droid-speak, it’s quickly translated into more understandable terminologies.

    At the heart of it all is the romance. And this is where the book outdid itself. Even with my dislike of Lloyd and even knowing Shaun is built to be the man of his dreams, the chemistry was still palpable, the romance sweet, and their connection soul-deep.

    Shaun was so charming he made Lloyd a hell of a lot more tolerable. I wished really hard that the story is written in his POV. It would be interesting to see Lloyd from a different perspective.

    Because say what I will about Lloyd, but the man has the kindest heart. The reason I don’t hate him entirely is because he treats Shaun with the utmost respect. I loved that he acknowledge his personhood because artificial though he is, Shaun can think, reason, learn, joke, and feel.

    The plot significantly picked up once Lloyd started worrying about Big Brother, a.k.a. SATinc, watching him. Things became more dynamic, and we see Lloyd’s friend, Jay, playing a key role. I really enjoyed this part because we see Lloyd and Shaun interacting with the outside world, and Shaun was having the time of his life. And charming people because this android is a ray of sunshine!

    Evolved is a mixed bag for me. The plot might be factory-settings basic and the MC is an acquired taste, but it is a story powered by a lot of heart. And that’s all that matters!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Binary Love
    Artist: The Rakes
    Album: Capture/Release


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