Despite having recently inhaled the first two books in Thea Harrison’s new Moonshadow series, I think it’s necessary to preface this review with a few confessions/disclaimers: I truly don’t read a lot of PNR/fantasy, I’m only vaguely familiar with elves and Fae (who knew there was more than one kind and are they different?), and I assumed light = good and dark = bad. WRONG. There’s a steep learning curve with the genre and in Ms. Harrison’s books; the worldbuilding is extensive. If I hadn’t some familiarity with her writing, I’m certain I would have been completely lost and annoyed from the get-go with Dragon Bound. Thankfully, I was (sort of) up to speed on magical realms, wyrs, pucks, Dark Fae, Light Fae, shapeshifters… and more. But more importantly (DON’T LAUGH), I also understood that “Elder Races” didn’t refer to a competitive event (which I wasn’t too enthusiastic about), but a biological group. Oops! My bad.
When Dragon Bound opens, we meet Dragos Cuelebre – a Wyrkind Dragon and Elder who’s been around a very LONG time. Over the years, Dragos has amassed a fortune, a massive collection of antiquities (which he hides away in his lair), a hugely successful international business, and a penchant for taking revenge on anyone who messes with any of the above. Feared and respected, surrounded by a handpicked cadre of loyal employees/friends, there’s very little in life that surprises him anymore. But on this day, the unthinkable has occurred. Someone, somehow, got past his powerful cloaking and aversion spells and broke into his lair. The thief stole a rare U.S. minted 1962 copper penny, and left behind a note:
I’m sorry I had to take your penny. Here’s another to replace it.
Dragos is furious. Livid. But also amused. The note holds the trace of a smell from its owner and that smell… it’s a familiar, but elusive scent. It doesn’t matter. Enraged that someone slipped through his defenses, he directs all of his time, attention and vast resources to finding the thief.
Orphaned as a teenager, half-human and half-Wyr, Pia Giovanni has secrets. Big ones. Raised in virtual isolation in the non-magical world by a Wyr mother, Pia spent her childhood keeping her head down and hiding her magic. But one careless confession after a lifetime of careful discipline – to an ex-boyfriend she mistakenly loved and trusted – puts her life in jeopardy. After discovering Pia’s extraordinary magical powers, her ex, desperate and in debt, leverages the information for his own personal gain and blackmails Pia into stealing from Dragos. She succeeds, but Pia knows her life is forfeit if the dragon catches her. She flees (after ensuring her ex can never blackmail her again), and hopes her hideout in Charleston, North Carolina – deep in fae territory – will protect and hide her from Dragos.
Dragos finds her (it’s in the book blurb!), but for reasons he’s not quite sure he understands, decides to spare her life. He’s curious about Pia, her scent, and how she bypassed his protections and entered his lair…but she’s an enigma and he wants to figure her out. Something about Pia stirs a protective instinct in him – a feeling he’s never experienced before – and that, coupled with a surprise sexual attraction to her, convinces him to bring her back to New York. Pia is similarly drawn to Dragos; she fears him, but she also can’t stop her mind from turning to all the wicked, naughty things she’d like to do to him. While Dragos makes plans to return with her to his home in New York, Pia tries to plan for a future – away from her dragon captor.
Their fragile detente is shattered when Dragos and Pia find themselves on the run from Dragos’ old enemy, the Dark Fae King. When they wind up captives in his magical realm, the pair are forced to trust each other in order to escape. Pia is dragged into a decades old battle of good vs. evil, and the relationship she forges with Dragos while in captivity – and the magical power she reveals – binds them together long after their escape. Dragos is alternately fierce and tender as he safeguards Pia, the thief who’s slowly capturing his jaded heart; Pia slowly reveals there’s more – much more – to her than meets the eye, and that Dragos, even at his most fearsome, is worthy of her trust and affection.
Once Dragos and Pia return to New York City, it isn’t long before all that simmering attraction (and mutual lustful thoughts) combust into a passionate love affair. I liked their chemistry and playful relationship (and Ms. Harrison can write a smokin’ love scene), but somewhere along the way, the novel digresses from a compelling romantic fantasy thriller into a fairly standard, cheesy love affair. Dragos is the stereotypical uber-alpha who, despite his centuries of life experience, seems pathologically unable to navigate a normal dating relationship, or understand how and why he keeps screwing things up. His devotion to Pia – and confusion over his frequent missteps – is endearing, but frustrating. Pia, despite her sheltered childhood and limited exposure to magical creatures and their world, finds her footing quickly. Too quickly. She’s able to hold her own in combat training with Dragos’ griffon and harpie protectors, navigate tricky public relations issues, and forge positive relationships with the Fae – who seem to know who and what she might be – effortlessly. She just does. (Note to reader: I hate “suddenly awesome at everything” heroines). And even with though they frequently struggle to communicate, she falls hard for her sexy dragon lover. Hmmm. I liked the build-up, I liked the couple, but after the excellent start to the story, the romance is… ho hum.
As the relationship between Dragos and Pia heats up, Ms. Harrison introduces us to the predictable, cookie-cutter secondary characters (and a silly PR rep) that inhabit the Cuelebre world, while spinning two subplots – enemies intent on destroying Dragos, and the mystery of who and what Pia actually is. I was bored with the former (though it drives the narrative), and surprised by the latter. It’s a delightful surprise I didn’t expect, but loved! The ending – complete with its over-the-top plot twist – is predictable but satisfying.