Book Review : When a Dragon Falls

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 : When a Dragon FallsWhen a Dragon Falls by Kerrelyn Sparks
Published by Kensington Books on October 24th 2023
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 416
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one-star
Source: NetGalley

Princess Lenushka of Norveshka prides herself on her courage. She’s faced down the doubters who think a woman dragon shifter is worth less than a man. She will marry to secure the support of her nobles—and ensure she’ll hold the Norveshki throne. A battle-hardened soldier, she’s prepared to destroy the Brotherhood of the Sun, who threaten all Aerthlan. But she can barely look at Bran Morris, the Raven. His dark, brooding beauty is off-limits for a princess who must wed for advantage. And he has far too many secrets of his own for Lennie to trust him with hers.   Bran’s quest is for vengeance, against the Brotherhood monsters who killed his brother and abused his sisters. He can’t dream about the sharp-eyed woman warrior whose memory haunts him, not even when she appears to rescue him from an unknown dragon shifter. But when Lennie and Bran discover they’re Aerthlan’s last defense against a powerful, murderous mastermind, they can no longer afford to deceive each other—or themselves. And when a dragon’s passion is freed, anything is possible . . .  

Before this novel, When a Dragon Falls, I’d read all but one of the Embraced/Embraced by Magic series. Though I was a huge fan of Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon, the third book of the series, I found that I just didn’t care for the following novels, How to Love your Elf, and The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea quite so much. However, after seeing that When a Dragon Falls focused on the daughter of my favorite couple from the series, I decided to give the series another chance. 

My favorite part of the series by far is the world-building. In this world, children born under the eclipse of the two moons, known as the embraced, are blessed with certain powers. Past female protagonists in the series have had the powers to speak to the dead, see diseases, summon flames, shapeshift, and more. Though those who were embraced were formerly feared and shunned, the female protagonists all becoming queens of major countries in previous entries in the series has really helped to turn that prejudice around.   

 

When a Dragon Falls centers on Lennie, short for Lenushka, the daughter of King Silas and Queen Gwennore, from Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon. I was immediately interested in Lennie as she was the first female dragon shifter in history and was chosen as the heir to the throne over her younger brother, Pendaras, which has the rest of the kingdom in an uproar. Lennie is also a captain in the military, so I felt she’d be a strong female protagonist, especially considering the personal character of her parents.

 

Though I was expecting a tough and determined character along the lines of Violet from Fourth Wing or Oraya from The Serpent and the Wings of Night, readers never really get to see Lennie in action. She claims to be trained to fight and is supposedly a capable leader, but it’s just not shown. There are no training segments or fight scenes with her in human form. There’s also nothing demonstrating her as a brilliant tactical leader or anything that makes her the best choice for the heir to the throne (other than the order of her birth). The most that is offered is a chase scene or two when she’s in here dragon form and a few orders she doles out to others in the military force.

 

I would have liked to see more of her past, perhaps her growing up as the first female dragon shifter, and how she came to terms with the misogyny she faced as both a female heir and shifter. But the focus on this novel is really not on either the male or female leads, but instead on their romance, which unfortunately, really didn’t work for me. I find it hard to root for the romance when I can’t really get attached to the characters, which was the case for me here.

 

It didn’t help matters that the male lead, Bran, was outright impossible for me to like. He claims to have fallen in love with Lennie the first time he ever saw her, which was from a distance, and while she was unconscious, and he was kidnapping her best friend. These factors alone don’t do much to endear him to Lennie (or me, for that matter). But embarrassingly enough, he continues to unironically refer to her as “my angel” and “my dream girl,” both aloud to her, to others, and to himself with no care for the mission at hand or who is around to hear. It’s embarrassing just how much subtlety this man, who is supposedly a former spy, assassin, and member of a deadly brotherhood, lacks.

 

I am personally a very big fan of the slow burn and prolonged mutual pining. In fact, I enjoy the build up to the realization of feelings between characters even more than the actuality of characters finally acting on their feelings. That’s the kind of romance that gets me excited, but this was sadly very much not the case with the relationship between Lennie and Bran. There is literally none of that mystery of romantic feelings or the butterflies of two characters finally getting together in When a Dragon Falls. The two have just met and the man has decided she is The One and is immediately hitting on her, regardless of how she outwardly feels about him. Even the novel feels like it has to explain his instant obsession:

 

“‘There is no need for you to discuss my personal life.’

‘But didn’t we decide to be friends?’ She gave him a frustrated look.

‘True, but even so, we just met in person yesterday.’

‘I met you five months ago.’

‘You saw me asleep that hardly constitutes—’

‘I held you close to my heart all that time. So when I see two clowns trying to win your affections, I find it hard to like them. More importantly, I don’t think you like them either.”

 

The way Bran decides to pursue Lennie no matter her feelings and immediately inserts himself into her private life, thinking he knows what is best for her, is concerning to me. Instead of an exciting “will-they-won’t-they” situation, the romance read way more to me like sexual harassment or love bombing and control than actual consensual flirtation. Though When a Dragon Falls repeatedly tells me how unlike the other men Bran is, even having other characters constantly claiming he is a “dear boy,” or other women fawning over him, I really don’t see a whole lot of actual admirable qualities, and instead see an actual whole color guard of red flags proudly waving. 

 

When a Dragon Falls also jumps back and forth from the perspectives of characters, even within the same chapter, which makes it just as confusing as these two characters falling for each other. But I guess this writing style might have been needed to push the romance forward and to make it seem more like the feelings were mutual. It gave me a bit of whiplash trying to keep straight from which perspective I was reading. Furthermore, the novel also switches from using more antiquated language, unironically saying things like “gnashing of teeth,” to using more colloquial language like “two clowns” and “dream girl” and so on. I wish it would have picked a style and stuck to it. Plus, characters spew the most unbelievable and unfiltered declarations of feelings constantly, such as:

 

“‘It’s not that simple.’

‘It is that simple. You either feel the same sort of deep, irreversible longing that I am feeling, or you do not.’” 

And nothing is left to the imagination of the thoughts in the characters either, as they constantly tell the readers every last, painful detail of what they are feeling for the other person. Nothing ever just happens without a wall of exposition surrounding it. Making matters worse is the dialogue between characters. There is one exchange comparing a waitress’s breasts to melons and another with men’s genitalia to cucumbers (and an old man’s to a pickled cucumber—and no, I am not making this up). But what astonished me was that When a Dragon Falls makes a very conscious and quite frankly, inadvisable, choice to choose the word “cheese” during a bedroom talk scene. 

 

“‘When I was seventeen, a new maid came to work at the monastery. She begged me to come to her room one night, saying there was a rat in there, and she was terrified. But when I went in, carrying a trap, I discovered a bigger trap waiting for me. She bolted the door and threw off her clothes.

‘So she was the rat!’ Lennie huffed. ‘I suppose she got your cheese?’ 

He shrugged. ‘I was young and curious. And flattered, thinking she wanted me.’

‘I should have known,’ Lennie grumbled. ‘Any man as gorgeous as you is bound to have women throwing themselves at him. So how many rats have jumped onto your ship?’”

 

This scene really felt anything but sensual and I couldn’t take it even remotely seriously. Instead, this exchange ruined what little immersion I had managed to retain in this novel, jolting me right out of the story as I tried to make sense of what I had actually just read. Perhaps other readers will find this scene (and some of the others). funny and endearing, but it really didn’t work for me. Likewise, I struggled to wrap my head around how perfectly everything worked out for literally all of the characters in the novel. Every problem that arises is easily dealt with, including objections to princesses and princes marrying beneath their rank, and people marrying former enemies of the state. It seems there is not a single crime too big to be forgiven.

 

When a Dragon Falls is definitely perfect for readers who don’t like slow-burns, love universally happy endings, and don’t have issues with instalove. Despite the fact that I really liked the novels in the beginning of the series, I don’t think I am the intended audience for When a Dragon Falls. I would definitely recommend When a Dragon Falls to fans of cozy romantasy novels with low stakes stories and guaranteed happy endings. Those who are looking for an ongoing series will also delight in this novel, as it looks like there are more on the way featuring the children of the leads from previous entries in the series. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to read them. 

 

 

one-star
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Book Review : When a Dragon Falls - Blogging with Dragons

Posted October 26, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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2 responses to “Book Review : When a Dragon Falls

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t like it better. It was a bit convoluted between the two main characters. But I love seeing the future of the Embraced world. And I appreciate the younger generation not only embracing the diversity (equality) of cultures but now also the diversity of classes.

    Anne – Books of My Heart

    • Thanks, me too honestly. I definitely thought it was such an inspired idea to explore the lives of the children of all the different couples! I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the series ?

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