*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A stolen magic. A rising evil. They are pawns in a game they do not understand.
USA Today Bestselling Author and 2018 SPFBO Semi-Finalist Meg Cowley returns with a stunning new epic fantasy trilogy set in the same world as her acclaimed Books of Caledan series.
When orphan Harper discovers a legendary Dragonheart, her life changes forever.
Magically flung to the faraway country of Pelenor, where magic, dragons, and elves rule, Harper must find her place – and fast.
Searching for the elven King’s missing Dragonheart is his ruthless Spymaster Dimitri, who has his own agenda to revolutionise Pelenor, and free it from the King’s greed.
Harper is thrust into a web of intrigue beyond her knowledge, and her newfound companions – a roguish elven thief and his ragtag band of companions – might not be the trustworthy friends she thinks.
When Harper and Dimitri’s paths collide, the only thing more dangerous than lies might be the truth, yet either might destroy them. Harper is forced to ally with the hated spymaster – but Dimitri is equally displeased that his fate rests in her unworthy hands.
Harper and Dimitri must work together to ensure both of them survive the King’s wrath in a court where betrayal is as easy as breathing. The Dragonheart is key to both their successes – but only one can possess it, and the king will not suffer its loss.
Who will drown in deceit, and who will rise triumphant?
Heart of Dragons touches down briefly in Caledan (familiar from the ‘Crown’ series by this author) before settling the action in the kingdom of Pelenor, where magic reigns supreme and lack of magic is a weakness and source of shame.
Although plucky orphan Harper is our main hero, we have a trilogy of main characters to follow, with Aedan and Dimitri also in the mix as plot catalysts. Interestingly, the two male characters have similar origins, yet they represent two very different responses to the trials they have faced. Aedon appears all flippancy, light and mischief whilst Dimitri is broodingly dark and bitter. Still it doesn’t take too long for Cowley to establish that the characters cannot be pigeonholed so neatly and there are complexities yet to uncover.
I found Harper somewhat less engaging than some of the other characters thus far in the journey. She is established in the opening pages as a survivor with strength of character and a reasonable accumulation of skills for her status and position. However, once the action starts properly she seems helpless, childishly impulsive, and even a bit whiny. I fully understand that as the main character she needs to develop and therefore cannot start as an all-action hero from the get-go, but I would have liked more flashes of initiative and self-awareness to give a sense of her potential. I won’t even mention my opinion of her sense of loyalty!
Despite – or even because of – Harper’s personal flaws, this is an immediately gripping fantasy story. There is magic, sword fighting, daring escapes, audacious thefts, intrigue, deception and betrayal. It literally has everything you could possibly need in a swords-and-sorcery story! Plus elves, dwarfs, bird-people and dragons. All presented in a clear, easy-to-read style that allows for smooth immersion in the world of the novel.
What I particularly enjoy about Meg Cowley’s fantasy novels is her subtle exploration of the grey areas of morality. The decisions her characters face are not easy and there are no ‘right’ answers to some of the questions. The characters have to use their own experiences and instincts to guide them and who ends up being hero or villain is open to interpretation.
I loved the Caledan series and am excited to be returning to a similar world for a fresh new adventure. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Harper tugged her other treasure from the hiding place. The leather cover was tatty and worn, but she caressed it as though it was the most precious treasure. The spine cracked as she opened it, the amber light of the fire barely illuminating the handwritten sheafs. Harper strained her eyes to read them anyway.
This was why she saved. Out there, beyond the woods, the sea, and the black sky, lay better lands, better places. Gallant knights, beautiful ladies, terrifying dragons, clever elves, adventure.
As the fire died down and the night turned to day, she lost herself in the tales. No matter that she had read them so many times before. No matter that she ought to have slept instead. This was a chance to leave her lonely, poor life behind. To go somewhere she would be rich, respected, and powerful enough to decide her own fate.
– Meg Cowley, Heart of Dragons
Heart of Dragons is available on Amazon right now and if you love epic fantasy then check out my review’s of Meg’s Caledan trilogy on the following links: Prequel and Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 and her Arthurian fantasy, Magic Awakened.