Book Review : Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Eight Simple Rules for Dating a DragonEight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Published by St Martins Pr on March 27th 2018
Pages: 448
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three-half-stars
Source: NetGalley

From the brilliant imagination of Kerrelyn Sparks comes a bold new fantasy romance series in which passion and magic collide. Behold the Embraced…

Gwennore has a talent. An Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it, she’s a valuable asset to her people. But when the kidnapping of a young girl thrusts Gwennore into the very heart of the realm of the dragons, she discovers not only a place of power and magic, but also a haunted land, plagued by an ancient curse that all but ensures extinction to the royal family. But when she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, they strike a bargain—save the country from its cursed illness, and he will return the kidnapped girl. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of curing the family he’s loyally served for years. But when a beautiful elf, long considered the enemy of the dragons, comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to passion and desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy to save the very existence he holds dear? And can their love survive those that threaten to tear them apart?

Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon was my first time ever reading a “romance” novel. I was little hesitant, especially at the sight of the cover, which is not my general cup of tea. However, to my surprise and delight, this book read much more like a fantasy novel than an actual romance novel. In fact, there was only one sex scene in the entire book—less than even some fantasy novels I have read—and a lot less than I was suspecting I would encounter. Though I really enjoyed this novel—and of course, I loved the entire premise of it—I felt the execution of it was sadly lacking. I often found myself wishing the author had gone deeper with her characters and developed the romance and the plot differently. And while the humor in the book was great, the flirting between the characters amusing, the writing was on the simplistic side. I was also frequently irritated by the main character, Gwennore and her actions.

 

Gwennore, a virginal healing elf, is a member of the Embraced, a set of people born under the eclipse or “embracement” of the two moons and born with the magical ability to sense diseases in people. Gwennore, or Gwennie, as her five adopted sisters call her, is faced with prejudice wherever she goes, as the elves are currently locked in a brutal war with other nations. To avoid a party with her sisters (two of which who are queens), and the undoubted continued racism, she picks flowers with her niece, Princess Eviana, only to witness her getting snatched by a dragon! She quickly grabs on, but it is not long before the kidnapper-dragon dislodges her. Luckily, another dragon, whom she laughingly dubs Puff, saves her from crashing to her death and agrees to chase after Eviana. Gwennore then winds up in Norveshka, a land where dragons and humans live in harmony. Once there and under Puff’s arranged protection of General Silas Dravenko, she decides to help him cure the curse of the Three Cursed Clans and the plague, so no other children will be kidnapped by dragons in the future.

 

Annoyingly, once Eviana is safely returned home, Gwennore appears to forget all about Eviana—who before was referred to as the only person she ever felt a strong, loving connection with—and Gwennore instead focuses entirely on Silas and curing the disease, which she didn’t really want to cure in the first place. Perhaps her lack of concern and missing of Eviana would not be so annoying if her attraction to Silas, whom she cringingly thinks of as General Gorgeous from the first time she laid eyes on him, did not feel so much like instalove. Plus, for someone for whom she considers giving up living with her precious sisters—which really did not seem like a loss to me as they seemed completely clueless to the prejudice she dealt with on a daily basis and also used her as a nanny to all of their children—she certainly leads Silas on a lot.

 

Constantly, after a breakthrough in their feelings, she turns him down seconds later because of crippling self-doubt about whether or not they even have a future together. She claims it is because Norveshki hates Elves even more than her sisters’ peoples due to their continued war with the elves. When the two finally kiss, it is only for her to reject him a mere moments later—claiming she only was curious about being kissed for the first time—and to spread rumors about their breakup. This was exceedingly frustrating not only for Silas, but also for me, the reader. Not exactly my idea of a whirlwind romance or how you should treat someone whom she thinks of as:

 

“…somehow it felt like she’d known this man more than a day. She’d always known him. She’d been born knowing him. She’d only been waiting for him to make his appearance.”

 

Her thoughts and her actions are always two very disconcertingly separate things. Plus, Gwennore, who is revered for her intelligence and cleverness, takes almost the entire book to figure it out that Silas and her beloved dragon, Puff, are one and the same, something that is painstakingly obvious to readers. For God’s sake, the man is divulging to her Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon throughout the novel, and this isn’t enough to give her a clue. But what irritated me even more than her slowness, was that when she eventually realizes the truth, she is very unhappy and disappointed about it! Um, hello, I would be thrilled if my boyfriend were able to shapeshift into a dragon—where are her priorities? Gwennore is sad because apparently Puff as she thought he was never truly existed. I thought this was a huge stretch, as she only actually met Puff twice—something that I found a bit of a letdown. I really would have enjoyed if the author had had Gwennore meet with Puff more often—he could have very easily taken her to meet the ancient sentient trees she could communicate with or to see the trolls.

 

This kind of development not only would have explained her obsessive attachment to Puff, but also would have been hilarious, as Silas was determined to hide his other nature from her. It would have opened up other doors to show how tortured Silas was at keeping his secret from her and could have showed his worry over whether or not she would have loved him if she knew the truth about him. Instead, he never seems concerned about this, and is in fact, more troubled about if she likes Puff more than him. This seems odd to me and I wish the author would have given up some of the humor of Silas being jealous of himself in order for more of this kind of development. On the other hand, I would have enjoyed more Silas in Puff form interaction with Gwennore in this different way and the push and pull of whether or not Gwennore would figure it out. It also would have added a deeper attachment to the two that did not involve their sexual attraction. I felt like this was a big missed opportunity for character development and to show off more of the humor at which the author excels.

 

Another thing I felt the book could have really used was a dragon fight. I just could not comprehend how in a book filled with dragons, that there was never a scene where two dragons went at it in a fire breathing, clawing, death defying battle. I would have loved if Silas were forced to change into a dragon in front of Gwennore in a big dramatic reveal in order to save her from a dire situation. I just felt that the Chameleon, a shapeshifter who can shift into literally anyone or anything, was not really that threatening. Perhaps this is because I had not read the other two books in the series, but to me, a guy sitting in cave pretending to be an ancient dragon while manipulating a grieving, mentally diminished king and his greedy secretary is plainly not that intimidating. Plus, the Chameleon stupidly shifted FROM A DRAGON into a wildcat to fight another shapeshifter fairly in the final battle.

 

This battle was very anticlimactic, with Silas’s grief over his brother’s death lasting only half a second, and everything was wrapped up super neatly, so that Silas and Gwennore could get married and become the King and Queen of Norveshka. For someone who did not even like being referred to as a prince or heir to the throne, Silas certainly had no qualms about becoming King. Again, another missed chance for character development—Silas could have appeared anxious about the new role and Gwennore could have given him confidence. Instead, Gwennore’s discovered Norveshki blood seems to be a magical band aid for both their relationship—Gwennore finally decides to consummate their flirtaitonship and marry the poor bastard once she is certain of her blood—and Norveshki peoples’ hatred of her. The book remarks in passing that they now see her as merely a good “witch” instead of an evil Elf witch who murdered their former Queen immediately after the burial—which we are not even privy to, to see Silas’s grief over the loss of his brother.

 

Anyways, how the Norveshki people get from mobbing her and accusing her of murdering the former Queen to accepting her literally overnight is beyond me. Furthermore, I would have liked the book to end with Gwennore and Silas meeting with the delegates from the elves, prior to their happily ever after marriage. I would have preferred to see the elves treating Gwennore, whom we know they refer to second hand as a half-breed and a pawn, cruelly firsthand. Consequently, this could have served for the impetus for Gwennore to finally recognize her true love for Norveshka and, of course, Silas, but there is no further development there—just a fairytale wedding, with visits from her sisters and set up for the next novel in the series, which hints at involvement of elves for her now sister-in-law Sorcha.

 

It was obvious to me from the beginning of the novel when the Seer’s prophecy was shared, that the five Embraced sisters will end up becoming Queens of different nations and bringing peace to the realm. But I don’t care about Sorcha possibly marrying an elf, I wanted to see Gwennore coming to terms with both sides of her heritage, especially the one that gave her up and served as a source of misery her entire life. I was not really interested in her marriage—which took place off scenes for some bizarre reason anyways—and would have gladly given it up for additional growth of the characters and their relationships. It was frustrating to me that everything was glossed over and I wondered if the author was given a length restriction and was not able to fill the gaps in and finish her story.

 

I was also perplexed when the author repeated the same words over and over. Not only were the same insults used—one single man was called a “weasel,” over and over multiple times by different characters, as if other insults simply did not exist. Similarly, the phrase “jump his bones” was used so often that I had to roll my eyes. But worst of all the phrase “could it be any better,” was used 4 times in 5 pages in the single, pivotal sex scene in the book—something that actually made me pause and awfully detracted from the long awaited scene. Hopefully these things will be fixed in the final edition of the book, (I am, after all, reading an ARC) but if not, I think the author could benefit from a new editor or perhaps an insult book for new ideas.

 

Despite this repetitiveness and the simplicity of the story, the writing succeeded at an atmosphere of pure fun, and excitement. I could easily put myself in both Silas and Gwennore’s shoes as they danced the danced of romance. I did not mind the cheesiness of the flirting, or the rules for dating a dragon—it simply added to the charm of the novel. The author definitely excels at dialogue and all kinds of banter—romantic or simply friendly. I definitely enjoyed the humor of the novel, often laughing aloud at exchanges like this between Gwennore and Silas:

 

“’How about I let you throw me overboard?’
‘Can you swim?’
‘Yes.’
She shrugged. ‘Then it’s hardly worth my trouble.’”

 

I did enjoy this book a lot and even picked up the first novel in the series to go back and read. I think my main problem with the book—and franky the reason that I was not able to give it a higher rating—was that I was really attached to the characters, the premise, and the events of the novel and would have loved to read an entire series based on purely this novel and its main characters, and not one the other side characters, like the other Embraced sisters. I would have gladly read a much longer version of this novel and would have been utterly pleased to see more of a slow burn instead of instalove. I would have been thrilled at battle scenes with the elves, more developments with Puff, fleshing out of friendships, and more conflict and torture within the characters. All in all, I loved its humor, the premise of the novel, and would encourage anyone looking for a light novel with both fantasy and romance to pick up this book!

 

three-half-stars
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Book Reviews - Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 21, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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