Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland
Series: Dragonsworn #1
Also in this series: Truth of Embers
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: July 27th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
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On a hike deep in the Rocky Mountains, Kai Monahan watches as a dozen dragons—actual freaking dragons—battle beneath a fat white moon. When one crashes nearly dead at her feet and transforms into a man, Kai does the only thing a decent person could: she grabs the nearest sword and saves his life.
As the dragon/man, Rhys, recovers from the attack, a chance brush of skin against skin binds him inextricably to Kai. Becoming heartsworn to a human—especially such a compelling one—is the last thing Rhys wants. But with an ancient enemy gathering to pit dragons against humanity and his strength nearly depleted, Kai has just become the one thing Rhys needs. A complete bond will give him the strength to fight; a denied bond means certain death.
Kai is terrified at the thought of allowing any dragon into her mind…or her heart. Accepting the heartswearing and staying with the dragons means sacrificing everything, and Kai must decide if her freedom is worth risking Rhys's life—a life more crucial to the fate of humanity than she could possibly know.
Book One of the Dragonsworn trilogy
Ever since I read Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison I’ve been craving dragon romances. The description for this one caught me so I decided to give it a go. While there are aspects I truly liked, the heroine pretty much killed the story for me.
Kai is a very young 20. She’s currently enrolled in college, but she spent 15+ years as a gymnast. Her parents pushed her really hard and she doesn’t have a good relationship with them as a result of her quiting. She’s completely given up gymnastics and now focuses on rock climbing. She and two of her roommates are out hiking when they come across an injured girl. Juli, her best friend, and their other roommate head back to their campsite for help while Kai stays with the injured girl. When she wakes up, Deryn, the injured girl, panics and begs Kai to help her save her brother, who is further up the trail. Since Deryn’s leg is broken, Kai reluctantly agrees when she realizes Deryn is determined.
What they come across is so far outside anything Kai imagined, she can’t get her head around it. Deryn is a Dragon, and so is her brother, Rhys. They’re in the middle of a civil war and Kai witnesses one of their battles. She ends up saving Rhys, and they kidnap her for her troubles.
Because the enemy is still near, Rhys can’t risk taking Kai home. She saved his life. The least he can do is ensure her safety until the enemy Dragons have moved on, or help arrives. He was severely injured when a poisonous dragon bit him, and he needs time to recover anyway.
Kai makes friends with one of the other dragons, Cadoc, but she’s drawn to Rhys. When they accidentally touch, he becomes heartsworn to her, which basically means he mates with her. All he has to do is kiss her to seal them together. Kai doesn’t know it, but she doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Rhys does his best to give her some time to adjust to the idea and to get to know him, but he’s the king of the dragons and becoming heartsworn will give him extra power. Plus, without him, the war will be lost and humankind will cease to exist since the one who’s trying to take over as king wants nothing more than to wipe humans off the earth.
At first I really felt for Kai. She ends up in an unimaginable situation and has to wrap her head around the fact that 1) Dragons exist and 2) she’s going to be “married” to one…and she didn’t get a choice about it. The problem is, she acted like an immature brat about it. Her constant whining and her refusal to look past her own issues was really frustrating. I get it. You don’t want to give up your entire life and walk away from your family and friends. But even when faced with Rhys’ physical pain over the separation between them (he was literally in excruciating pain because he was Heartsworn and she wasn’t) and the possible end of humanity, she still only thought of herself. Even when her best friend comes back and ends up heartsworn to one of the other dragons, she still only thought of herself. If she left Rhys and walked away from it all, her best friend would have surely died. And still she didn’t hesitate. She didn’t even attempt to compromise or talk to Rhys about her situation..she just flat out refused to consider it. I didn’t need Kai to swear her undying love and devotion to Rhys and immediately take up his cause, but some consideration for his plight, and that if humanity, wouldn’t have been remiss.
I really liked Rhys. He was doing his best to lead his people and keep his dragons alive, yet he didn’t try to force Kai. He wanted to be chosen for himself, yes, but he also wanted Kai to be as comfortable as possible. I thought he was sweet and understanding. Having said that, he didn’t act like a thousands-years-old dragon. He acted like a 20-something who had a lot of responsibility thrust on him. I expected more maturity out of him given his age.
The world is imaginative and I really liked the secondary characters. The other dragons in Rhys’ Vee (essentially his personal guard) and Juli really brought life to the story. I really became invested in their fight against Rhys’ cousin, who wants to take over the dragons, the council, and their interpersonal dramas.
Which brings me to my biggest complaint…this ended in a cliffhanger. I didn’t expect the war to be fought and won in a single book, but I did think the series was going to feature the different dragons, rather than focusing solely on Kai and Rhys. I want to continue the series to find out what happens, but I don’t know if I can stomach two more full length books with Kai as the main protag. I bought book two, but I’m going to hold off on reading it for now.
The world and the secondary characters really pulled me in. The world is fresh and imaginative. If only the heroine were as well.
3 out of 5