Fantasy romance lovers should definitely keep an eye out for Dragon Tamer – it’s full of seriously cute romance and plenty of fun magical adventure!
Book: Dragon Tamer by Ophelia Silk
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by author. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Mild violence and injury; discussion of previous death of partner, and on-page depiction of grief.
Katla’s village is trapped in a terrible bargain: in order to keep themselves protected from the dragons, they must sacrifice people to a self-appointed god. When her young cousin is selected as the next sacrifice, Katla decides it’s time to stop daydreaming about killing the false god and actually do it. However, planning is not necessarily her strong suit, and the attack goes terribly, ending up with her freeing a trapped dragon and being snatched away by him. Trapped in his castle at the top of an icy mountain, Katla’s determined to escape – until she realises that this dragon might be different from everything she’s ever heard about. And if the myths are wrong, then what’s really going on between the dragons and the humans? And could Katla actually ever… like a dragon?
I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog that I’m not usually the biggest fan of Viking-inspired stories (too much battle and machismo for me usually), but I really wanted to read Dragon Tamer anyway. Ophelia Silk is a writing team that includes an author whose work I’ve previously loved (check out my review of Our Bloody Pearl here), so I had my suspicions this would be a little bit sweeter than my previous run-ins with Vikings, and I was right! While there’s still a ton of action, and our main character Katla is a strong-willed warrior, there’s plenty of cute moments and the central relationship had so many things I love in a romance! This is way fluffier than the cover makes it appear, and that’s just perfect for me. There’s everything from mutual injury tending to Eivindr teaching Katla to read to sparring that ends up in kissing, and the most adorable awkward flirting throughout. Plus, Katla’s narrative voice is so strong – there’s tons of humour just in how she looks at the world, even in the chapter titles, so if you like your fantasy on the lighter side, this is one to check out!
There’s not too much I can tell you about the non-romance side of the plot without spoiling some pretty major twists, but I thought there was a good balance that put it solidly in the ‘fantasy romance’ rather than the ‘fantasy that has romance’ category, which for me is a major distinction. This is definitely a character-focused book, and I really enjoyed how it turns a lot of traditional character tropes on their heads – at times I wondered if this was going to some ‘Beauty and the Beast’ places, but it’s not what you might think. I have no idea if there’s an existing term for a female himbo, but whatever it is, Katla fits it to a tee! She’s witty and street-smart (mountain-smart?) but not the biggest fan of emotional complexity, preferring to rely on her neverending supply of terrible jokes and awesome muscles to keep conversations light. Her narration is a huge amount of fun to read, she’s the kind of person that would drive me up the wall in real life (always acting before she thinks!) so I really liked how her impulsivity was balanced by Eivindr’s steadier personality. He’s an absolute sweetheart, really, a gentle soul who mostly wants everyone to stop fighting and leave him in peace to grow flowers – not what you’d immediately think of from a dragon love interest!
Eivindr and Katla are very different people, but they complement each other so nicely, drawing the best out of each other – their banter is entertaining, but also ends up challenging each of their beliefs, which leads to some lovely character development for both of them. It’s that emotional connection that makes or breaks a romance for me, and this ticked that box beautifully for me. This is particularly noticeable in how Katla gradually draws Eivindr out of his grief at losing his partner, Audunn, who died before they met, which was depicted very well. And while I think about it, I enjoyed the casual queerness of the world, especially nonbinary Audunn being so very important to Eivindr and the plot despite their on-page absence, and Katla’s total nonchalance that Eivindr’s previous soulmate wasn’t a woman. It’s a beautiful way to show that m/f relationships don’t have to be straight relationships.
If, like me, you’re always on the lookout for soft and fun fantasy romance, Dragon Tamer is well worth your time! Although it’s pitched as adult fiction, I think many YA readers would be delighted with Katla as a heroine, so it’s good one for crossover appeal too, especially as it’s not particularly long for fantasy at just under 250 pages, so won’t be too intimidating. As with Our Bloody Pearl, I hesitate to call it entirely lighthearted, because it does deal with some difficult subjects, but it’s a delightful reading experience with an absolutely adorable main couple. Four out of five cats!