Chains and Flames
Author: G. A. Aiken
Title: Chains and Flames
Series: Dragon Kin 0.1
A short story published in conjunction with Dragon Actually
Genre: High Fantasy
Rating: Two Petals
On the Author's Website:
This book is a short story added to the end of Dragon Actually focusing on the story of how Bercelak and Rhiannon, Fearghus' parents, met and fell in love. No formal summary is available, nor is there an individual cover.
I would suggest reading my review for Dragon Actually. It covers the beginning of what I want to say here, which I'm therefore going to skip so I don't repeat myself. Here's a short summary to catch up: There is a lot of graphic sex that serves to further the plot, which is nice in comparison to most books in the genre. I also really like the dragon society and this novella expanded on it greatly.
The dragons have a queen who rules them and this book focuses on the struggle between the old, corrupt queen, and her daughter, Rhiannon, who has to fight the old queen and win in order to stay alive. The society that surrounds the queen is divided between various different classes of dragons. There are the nobles, the warriors, and everyone else. Bercelak is a warrior from a low-born family and the interaction between him and Rhiannon as they fight their own attraction and the rules of society to be together was the entire premise for the story.
I really like the way the dragon society was crafted. I found every aspect of that to be completely fascinating at a four petal level. The struggle between Rhiannon and her mother and between Rhiannon and the class differences that kept her from Bercelak, helped to flesh out the dragon society in a way that wasn't possible within the confines of Dragon Actually. The inclusion of Chains and Flames after Dragon Actually helped to enhance Dragon Actually a lot.
However, I had some serious issues with the romance in this story, which is why it ended up with only two petals. Rhiannon is a typical spoiled noble. She's a child, really, in that she's ignorant of how the world works and doesn't care to learn. I didn't enjoy her personality at all. The goal of the book was for her to grow into a good person, but I didn't see that happen. She remains unlikable from beginning to end. What Aiken no doubt meant to be growth actually came across as defeated acceptance of an impossible situation. Unfortunately, that impossible situation is the romantic relationship Rhiannon builds with Bercelak.
Part of me wants to call it a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. Another part of me just wants to call it psychological rape. Bercelak has feelings for Rhiannon so he ties her up and messes with her thinking process until she starts to like him too. The only saving grace in their relationship is the fact that Bercelak does give Rhiannon the opportunity to say no and Aiken wrote Rhiannon's entire thought process about why she didn't actually say no. However, despite the fact that Bercelak states he will let her go the moment she does say no, I was always unsure whether he would match action to words. Their love does last for centuries, so I would like to believe that their relationship is based on true love and respect. I just couldn't help cringing a bit during the sex scenes.
There is a reason Aiken published the books in this series in a certain order. I recommend reading Dragon Actually first to get a good feel for the series as a whole before delving into Chains and Flames, which is chronologically earlier. Chains and Flames helped to expand the world of the dragons, giving more insight into their society and culture that I really enjoyed. However, the romantic relationship came across a little too much like Stockholm Syndrome for me to truly enjoy this short story.
Maggie reviews paranormal and fantasy novels and novellas. She also interviews authors and hosts giveaways.