Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland

Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarlandSoul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland
Series: Dragonsworn #1
Published by Carina Press on July 27th 2015
Pages: 266
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On a hike deep in the Rocky Mountains, Kai Monahan watches as a dozen dragons—actual freaking dragons—battle beneath a fat white moon. When one crashes nearly dead at her feet and transforms into a man, Kai does the only thing a decent person could: she grabs the nearest sword and saves his life.
As the dragon/man, Rhys, recovers from the attack, a chance brush of skin against skin binds him inextricably to Kai. Becoming heartsworn to a human—especially such a compelling one—is the last thing Rhys wants. But with an ancient enemy gathering to pit dragons against humanity and his strength nearly depleted, Kai has just become the one thing Rhys needs. A complete bond will give him the strength to fight; a denied bond means certain death.
Kai is terrified at the thought of allowing any dragon into her mind…or her heart. Accepting the heartswearing and staying with the dragons means sacrificing everything, and Kai must decide if her freedom is worth risking Rhys's life—a life more crucial to the fate of humanity than she could possibly know.

Millenia ago, dragons ruled the world. Or so the most arrogant of them thought. But their long-forgotten existence is snapped back into the present when a college hiker breaches a boundary she isn’t supposed to and inadvertently helps save a man-dragon in the process.

The manner in which we’re thrust into the fantastical dragon (and dragon-slaying) world is rather weak to me; Kai simply walks through a barrier dividing this reality and the ‘unseen’ one but it’s there that the story really takes off into a whirlwind tumble of events – combining folklore and magical beasts with a whiff of urban fantasy thrown in – buoyed by Caitlyn McFarland’s sharp and compelling prose. As the story wore on, I found myself wanting more of Juliet and Ashem than Kai and Rhys, whose own story seemed deliberately and unnecessarily complicated than it needed to be when Kai’s fear and insecurities prevent her from taking the step that will seal her bond with Rhys.

That a solid story such as this is built on a series of coincidences (Kai wandering into a dragon fight, Juliet getting accidentally heartsworn and so on) bothers me a little, not to mention the strange disconnect that I felt when the dragons effortless shifted from the magical world into urban Seattle. Learning the way of the dragons is a wholly engrossing literary journey itself, but it was bewildering to find out that the mating process (or heartswearing, as it’s called in the book) takes as little as an accidental touch rather than action with more gravitas as I’d expected.

Soul of Smoke ends on a cliffhanger, and the second installment already promises additional fiction between Rhys and Kai when the path to happiness is strewn with dragon politics and ex-lovers. But by this time, I’ve already been drip-fed the world-building to addiction and handed various plot-strands that will keep me coming back for the rest.