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Miss Anna Key says: In this first instalment of the Dragon Kin series GA Aiken (aka Shelly Laurenston) introduces us to a rich fantasy world with a plethora of colourful and multidimensional characters. It’s a world where magic is ever-present, gods are vengeful, passion is all-consuming and love eternal and deliciously carnal. Where do I sign up? 🙂

Dragon Actually by GA AikenAs the title suggests the series focuses on the dragon kin, magical creatures able to shapeshift into humans to better coexists in the world dominated by men. They lead secluded lives uninterested in human affairs apart from an occasional pillage of a nearby village or a stray army unit. However on one faithful day a certain event irrevocably changes the balance of the world. Annwyl the Bloody, a human warrior and leader of the rebellion against her tyrant king brother, brings the fight to the lair of the infamous Faergus the Destroyer, a fearful and mighty beast. Smitten by Annwyl’s bravery and courage in battle he saves her life and allows her to recuperate in his den. And thus begins a story of a growing friendship and finally a soul-deep love and passion between a grumpy and distrustful dragon and an equally unwilling and stubborn maiden. However, the war for the throne of Garbhán Isle cannot be postponed forever and the torrent of events puts the newly developed attachment to the ultimate test.

The narrative is elaborate and its style reminds me of fairy tales or fantasy books, where the story is revealed slowly to allow the readeRd to immerse themselves in a new world, to form an attachment with the characters and eventually when the pace speeds up, to be drawn into the maelstrom of battles for one’s crown and heart. And I must admit – a job well done. From the very beginning I was enchanted with this magical and colourful world and by the unquenched, white-hot passion between Faergus and Annwyl. It really got quite steamy in that little cave. Because the story takes time to unravel the Author was able to show the growing attachment between the two unwilling characters, taking it one step at a time with the imminent war brewing in the background. You can see Fearghus’s inner conflict as he is trying to resolve or understand his growing attachment to the petty human. But there’s nothing petty about Annwyl. She’s a hardened warrior and a big-mouthed, stubborn shrew. Their constant bickering, frowning and mumble-grumbling is truly enjoyable to read and make you fell in-love with them instantly. Not to mention the powerful build-up of sexual tension which climaxes in the Claiming of the one-true mate (really hot!) and the final battle for the throne of Garbhán Isle and the Dark Plaines.

In the whole story I had only one “but”. Throughout the book we learn about the angst that Annwyl feels against facing her brother in battle. She fears his skills as a warrior and is not entirely sure that she’d be able to deliver a death blow. Only thanks to tuition from Faerghus is she able to master her fear and ultimately prevail. When it comes to the glorious battle with dragons standing against dragons and men against men (a very compelling read in itself) the combat between the siblings is all-too-soon over. It leaves the reader with a slightly puzzled look and the unavoidable: “That’s it? It hasn’t even started yet.” Yes, you do get a lot of backstory as to how the evil half-brother wanted to kill her ever since she arrived at the castle as a little girl but it doesn’t really come across in that final duel. It’s difficult to grasp the wickedness of Lorcan, the Butcher of Garbhán Isle and the reason behind Annwyl’s fear.

However, putting that little teeth-gritting moment aside, I’ve immensely enjoyed the story and I’m looking forward to the next instalments. Because let’s face it – I’m going to devour the whole series and I know I’m going to enjoy it. Thoroughly.