Series: Dragonlands #1.5
Also in this series: Blazing Dawn
Friends and lovers have always come easily to Estenarven kin Boulderforce, until Mastekh. For the first time in over three hundred years, Estenarven has found a dragon that matters. Now all he has to do is convince him.
Mastekh kin Rainstorm doesn’t expect much from life; he mostly wants to be left alone. Until Estenarven leaves a gift on his pillow. For the first time someone is paying attention to Mastekh, but can this shy, downtrodden dragon ever learn to trust another – and himself – enough to give in to life, joy... and maybe even love?
Warning! This M/M romantic side-adventure contains a watery dragon with no confidence and a stone-stubborn Boulderforce with confidence enough for two. May also contain an interfering Starshine, a slightly perplexed Blazeborn and kissing. Enjoy!
Also by this author: Orion's Kiss, Sing to Me, Unbound & Free
A Courtship of Dragons was, once upon a time, intended to be a short romance novelette set between Becca Lusher’s Blazing Dawn and Storm Rising. It follows the courtship of Khennik’s two aides: Estenarven and Mastekh.
Standard Frienship Bias disclaimer applies: Becca is a very good friend and I may be biased.
It’s… the first time in a long time I haven’t absolutely adored something Becca wrote and I am sad. A Courtship of Dragons is currently still being released as a webserial on Becca’s website. The story is finished and has been compiled into a free ebook for the impatient (hi!), but the result is that the narrative isn’t as polished or clean as it could be and, sadly, it really shows.
As I was reading, I found myself desperately wishing that Becca had taken this story a little more slowly and sent it through another round of editing before publishing the final book. Both Becca and the story she’s telling here are worth the extra effort and a price point.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a really sweet and often times fun m/m romance and if you’ve enjoyed meeting the Dragonlands characters, it’s definitely a great little aside to see more of the characters and the world as a whole. Estenarven’s life changes drastically after meeting Mastekh and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that truly tries to tackle how major changes in your life circumstances (and perceptions) can affect your friendships. Mastekh, meanwhile, grapples with his self-worth and confidence.
And I’ll admit his struggles are a major reason why I wish Becca had edited this more carefully. Initially, when I started reading I read him as demisexual (which Becca confirmed for me), which makes Mastekh an ace spec dragon in a culture that is (almost) hypersexual. He’s not like a typical dragon in a lot of ways and he’s constantly reminded of that and how other dragons see him as weak because he stutters or is too emotional to always keep hold of his human shape. He’s also likely constantly reminded of it because he’s just not into sex the same way a dragon ‘should’ be. Estenarven is a perfect contrast to Mastekh in that sense because he’s everything that a dragon ‘should’ be. But after the initial few chapters, the interaction between dragon society and Mastekh’s sexuality just… vanishes in ways that didn’t work for me. Not with the rest of the novel being so good at keeping less integral elements to Mastekh’s personality and the romance core of the story front-and-centre. I didn’t want anything that would make massive changes, but I did really miss the way that I’d have expected the narrative to have continued.
(You have no idea how much it absolutely galls me to write this. Sing to Me, Becca’s other free romance novella, is one of my favourite stories with a demisexual-coded lead ever. And I like Mastekh, as a character, even more than Dóma. He’s such a sweetiepie.)
So, sadly, the core component, the romance, didn’t work for me. I’d high hopes that the latter half would restore that for me, but no. Goryal, what the heck were you thinking?! (Seriously, though, apart from that moment where I seriously want to yell at them for their meddling ways, I think they might be my favourite part of this whole story. I would love, like, a collection of stories about their meddling. It has the potential to be absolutely hilarious.)
Watching Estenarven and Mastekh work out their courtship and coming closer together is also a lot of fun. These two are just so different that watching them find ways to get close together and, more importantly, picking up on exactly what the other needs and wants is precious. It’s also a delight to watch Esten’s confidence crumble when it comes to pleasing Mastekh, because that more than anything shows the growth that he’s going through in the course of the story. Esten is a dragon who’s suddenly found something precious that he wants to protect and nurture and… he doesn’t really know how, so he’s afraid (possibly for the first time in his life) of messing it up. It’s delightful to watch him learn more about himself.
As a romance, the issues I had with Mastekh meant the narrative didn’t thrill me as much as I’d hoped. As a small interlude between books in a series and an additional glimpse at dragon society, I enjoyed it a lot, though. I could see it sparkle and shine as bright (if not more so) as Becca’s other works, but sadly it remained a rough version of what it could be. I hate writing reviews like this one. I know Becca’s work too well to do a good job at it. It’s actually a perfectly good book. The writing is solid, the characters are a lot of fun, the setting and world-building are intriguing and well-done. It has everything that I love and enjoy (with a bonus ace spec protagonist I wasn’t expecting!). I just didn’t love it the way that I’d hoped I would.
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