Rodman hooked me on this urban fantasy setting within the first pages of the book, using quick, subtle details to set up the broad scope of the secret fantasy elements without resorting to direct explanation. Once Kirby arrived at the castle and learned the true reason for his presence, I knew I was in for an even greater treat when the full reveal of the dragonrider society creates an even more multilayered world. Rodman strikes an excellent balance in crafting a broad external conflict that sets up the reason for the dragonriders’ existence, a more specific conflict within that society, and the relationship that develops between Kirby, Cai, and Harlen in a fast-paced story that never felt bloated with excess content to justify the worldbuilding. This balance also extends to portraying Kirby’s dragon Ri as a relatable character who is still inhuman enough to have different perspectives and values.
Though the cover and blurb promised an eventual relationship between the three men, I originally wasn’t impressed with the strong “love triangle” vibes I got from the otherwise delightful push-and-pull Kirby experiences in his interactions with Cai and Harlen. The bond between dragon and rider also puts an interesting spin on how the relationship between Kirby and the other two riders develops physically before emotionally. Rodman is careful to slip in enough detail to show the dragons are willing to and do incorporate rider preference as a facet of their bond, which lends levity and spice to what could have been much darker encounters. Kirby’s presence offers balance to the fraught dynamic that already existed between Cai and Harlen, and I appreciated that they don’t necessarily “need” Kirby to complete them but that his inclusion makes for a more fulfilling relationship and aids in Cai’s healing character development.
I’m picky with my fantasy since it was my first true love as a reader, and I identified a handful of external plot holes that I hope are rectified or better explained in later installments of this series. Overall, this did not greatly diminish my pleasure in the story, especially since I did enjoy how Rodman ties together the external threads along with an excellent examination of the “chosen one” trope. It is clear that this book is the first in a trilogy, but while it doesn’t end in a blatant cliffhanger, the external and romance plots primarily focus on setup and twists that will strongly influence what comes next rather than a full conclusion. I look forward to reading more about these men and how it affects the greater dragonriding society, and vice versa.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.