Carrie Lofty—her real name
Ellen Connor—in partnership with Ann Aguirre
Katie Porter—in partnership with Lorelie Brown
Series: THE DRAGON KINGS
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—1
Publisher and Titles: Pocket
"Silent Warrior" (prequel e-novella 5/2013)
Caged Warrior (6/2013)
Blood Warrior (7/2013)
The Pet is a beautiful young Dragon King woman who was sold into slavery to the Aster cartel when she was twelve years old and lived as Dr. Heath Aster's personal slave for 25 years until she was liberated when Dr. Aster's laboratories were destroyed in book 1. The sociopathic Dr. Aster dressed the Pet in a black latex cat suit and paraded her around on a leash. The rest of the Asters' enslaved Dragon Kings hated the Pet because they thought that she assisted Dr. Aster in his gruesome experiments. After the destruction of the labs, the Council believed that the Pet knew Dr. Aster's secret for solving the Dragon Kings' fertility problem, so Mal imprisoned her in the Tigony stronghold in the mountains of Greece for interrogation until she somehow escaped. As the story opens, Mal tracks her down in the middle of an ancient labyrinth on the island of Crete with the intention of recapturing her.
We know from the first page that Mal and the Pet will fall into the usual lust-to-love relationship both because this is a paranormal romance and because the Pet has foreseen this in a vision. But before they reach their obligatory HEA, get ready for a rip-roaring adventure that takes them on a dangerous trip from Crete to Italy to London for a climactic showdown that brings back all of the major characters from previous books (including the loathsome Hellix from book 1—who finally gets his comeuppance) and resolves the outstanding issues. Early in the book, Mal decides that the Pet deserves a real name, so he names her Avyi. (You will have to read the book to find out what "Avyi" means in the Tigony language.)
The love story is terrific—full of sharp personality contrasts, dark secrets and tragedies from the past, and enigmatic prophecies for the future. Mal is a cynical, jaded, pessimistic, haughty politician who hates himself for some horrific past deeds and who has lost his belief in the Great Dragon—the theological foundation of the Dragon Kings culture. Mal trusts no one and has lived his adult life suspecting every person he meets of being a potential trickster. He is definitely a cup-half-empty kind of guy who sees only chaos and bitter rivalry in the future of the Dragon King clans. At this point, he is so apathetic that he has done nothing to stop the human cartels from their gradual enslavement of the dwindling Dragon King population. Mal's gift from the Great Dragon is the ability to siphon off electrical energy from any source and absorb it into his body for various uses, particularly as a fiery weapon.
In direct contrast to Mal, Avyi always maintains hope and faith in a better future, even though her life of slavery has sometimes beaten down that hope. Avyi was gifted by the Great Dragon with second sight. She is a seer—a prophet who constantly visualizes future probabilities. Based on her prophecies, she believes in the power of the Dragon King clans to find their place in the world and to live in harmony. She follows her visions compulsively and insists that Mal follow along with her. As they travel, she lectures him on his arrogance and apathy and vows to prove to him that her prophesies for the future are true. Unfortunately, her visions include a fatal confrontation with the cartels that will claim the lives of many Dragon Kings. Will that come true, or is it just one of many probabilities? Piper spices up Mal and Avyi's blossoming relationship with frequent (and graphic) love scenes, beginning when they hardly know one another and ending with their inevitable vow of eternal love.
The primary vision that drives Avyi centers on a young female Dragon King named Cadmin. Avyi foresees that Cadmin will be the one who saves the Dragon Kings from extinction in the midst of a huge battle. As the story opens, Avyi is searching in the labyrinth for an unknown artifact that she must find, recognize, and give to Cadmin, and she refuses to be deterred by Mal's insistence that he will be dragging her back to his prison in Greece. Mal views Avyi's search as a flimsy excuse to avoid imprisonment, but he soon becomes intrigued with both the woman and her visions. Even through he is skeptical and wary, he agrees to accompany Avyi on her search. All during their travels, he sneers at her opinions and belittles her hopes and visions every chance he gets, always goading her to prove herself and then denying that proof.
The ending of the book answers a number of questions raised throughout the series. Why did the Pet (Avyi) assist Silence in the Prequel novella, and why did Silence trust her? What is relevance of the riddle of the chasm that is frequently mentioned throughout the series ("the chasm can be fixed"; "the chasm is still broken")? Will that broken chasm ever be fixed? What is the true significance of the golden idol that appears in the prequel and assumes more importance in book 1? What is the solution to the infertility crisis suffered by the Dragon Kings—the cure supposedly discovered by Dr. Aster? Is it possible for the Dragon Kings to overcome the Cartels without decimating their own population any further? Will the Clans ever stop fighting amongst themselves and come together as a unified race?
Piper has outdone herself on this final chapter of the Dragon Kings story. The starring lovers are multi-faceted and interesting as they attempt to deal with the tragedies of their pasts and their contradictory views of the future. The plot twists and turns as they search for magical artifacts that will be instrumental in defeating the enemies of the Dragon Kings, including whoever is sending assassins after Mal all during their trip from Crete to London. We learn much more about the history and traditions of the Dragon Kings from the conversations between Mal and Avyi, from flashbacks to Mal's youth, and from Avyi's visions. Piper has crafted an elegantly calibrated conclusion to her series by weaving together elements that she introduced (but never fully explicated) in earlier books along with new revelations. Now, everything becomes clear, and it is obvious that Piper had this all planned out from the very beginning. This is a great finale, and I was enthralled from the very first page.
If you haven't read the first two DRAGON KINGS novels and the prequel novella, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. I definitely do NOT recommend this book as a stand-alone because it is meant to tie together the series story lines that have been building, book by book, from the very beginning of the series. (For example, you could never fully appreciate Silence's gut-wrenching battle with Hellix if you haven't read "Silent Warrior.") Do yourself a favor by starting with the prequel novella and then going on to the novels. This is a terrific series—dark and dangerous, savage and seductive—and I highly recommend it. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt.
The Dragon Kings are divided into the Five Clans, each with its own particular talent. The clans tend to be reclusive and hostile to one another, with little cross-breeding. The suggestion in the first book is that the Clans would be better served by more cross-clan breeding because Dragons with mixed genetic heritages appear to be much stronger than purebred Dragons. Here are the Dragon King clans:
This series is profiled in the August 2013 issue of RT Book Reviews. Click HERE to read the article, which is displayed on the author's blog. Click HERE to read an RT Book Reviews interview with the author about her multiple identities.
PREQUEL E-NOVELLA: "Silent Warrior"
This novella sketches in the framework of the world-building as it tells the love story of Hark and Silence (aka Orla), both of Clan Sath. The two meet as opponents in a fight staged in a bar in Hong Kong. Silence is a collared Dragon King who has been sent by the Aster Cartel to Hong Kong to track down and capture an Indranan Dragon King, and Hark is a free Dragon King who is fighting to earn money to pay off his debts. When a Pendray Dragon King attempts to take their winnings from them, they team up to defeat him, thus beginning their inevitable fall into lust, love, and mating.
The love story is the focus of the plot, but the author also scatters some explanatory information about the series mythology that will be helpful to the reader of the introductory novel. Chief among these bits of information is an explanation of the story behind the dragon-shaped idol that becomes a key plot element in Caged Warrior. We also learn Hark and Silence's backstories, which explain their eccentric personality traits—Hark's incessant snarky chatter and Silence's muteness. Here, Hark muses about their differences: "Basically, despite the fact they'd been born to the same clan, they were entirely opposite. Manic to quiet. Blue eyes to black." One last connection to the plot of Caged Warrior is Silence's message from the Soothsayer that tells her that she has to wait for the living gold before the chasm can be fixed. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt.
Because this is first and foremost a paranormal romance series, we know from the beginning that Nynn and Leto will fall for one another, and eventually they do, although there are some brutal scenes between them before that happens. Leto's training methods are harsh, and at first he despises Nynn because she has renounced her Dragon King heritage. As the plot advances, Nynn must deal with the horrors of her childhood, which have been repressed up until now, and Leto must accept the fact that the Asters are not the honorable men he always thought they were.
So far, this looks like it will be a solid series. The plot of this first book is filled with compelling, page-turning (and stomach-churningly violent) action, but it also has a few tender moments and several hot love scenes. If you are searching for something different from the usual cookie-cutter paranormal romances, with their lonely heroes, sassy heroines, and overload of sardonic dialogue, you'll probably enjoy this fresh and inventive series. Click HERE to and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt read the first five pages of Cage Warrior.
NOVEL 2: Blood Warrior
This book provides in-depth coverage of the eccentricities of the Indranan and Pendray clans, just as the novella spotlighted the Sath, and book 1 focused on the Tigony and the Garnis. If you enjoy paranormal romance, this is a solid series with an inventive mythology and well-drawn characters. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt.