REVIEW: Recovery (Reawakening: Book three) by Amy Rae Durreson
Reawakening: Book Three
Resistance, exile, plague. Raif has survived them all, but now he finds himself in search of a new purpose. Traveling north to wake the dragon Arden, he hopes he has finally found a leader worthy of his loyalty, but Arden turns out to be more of a frivolous annoyance than an almighty spirit lord. Now bound to Arden’s side despite his frustration, Raif follows the dragon to the rich and influential lagoon city of Aliann, chasing rumors of the Shadow that once cursed his homeland.
With the election of a new duke at stake, Raif struggles to make sense of the challenges he meets in Aliann: a conspiracy of nixies and pirates, selkie refugees in desperate need of a champion, a monster that devours souls, a flirtatious pirate prince, and a machine that could change the world. For nothing in the city of masks is what it seems, from the new friends Raif makes to the dragon he follows—or even himself.
Dear Amy Rae Durreson,
As the blurb tells you, this book’s main couple is Raif and Arden. We met Raif in the last book, where he endured a lot, and if you read that installment you know that at the end he is leaving his homeland to search for Arden. Arden is another sleeping dragon brother and Raif hopes to wake him and become part of Arden’s hoard.
Raif is on a mission that both the dragons who woke up in the previous books and their lovers wanted him to undertake, but he also wanted to leave his home because he was having a crisis of faith. Raif finds Arden and wakes him up, and of course Arden is taken with him. Just to remind the reader, dragons in these series thrive on love from their hoard (their hoard are made up of people and all kinds of beings they have taken under their wings) and dragons love their hoard back. I am saying this to stress that it made perfect sense that Arden took to Raif, but this relationship also felt to me the most human and the most complex out of all three books, which I suppose a good thing.
Arden may be a mighty dragon, a defender of the law, but he is grieving over the loss of his hoard because all of them died over the past thousand years. He wants to win Raif over and he really loves to laugh and tease him. Raif may be attracted, but he also thinks, especially in the beginning, that Arden is not *serious enough* to make him a worthy person to serve. But we know by now that dragons want to love, they want somebody to cherish; they do not want servants in their hoard. Raif eventually learns to take some teasing from his dragon, and overall I thought that the way both guys played off each other was really nicely done, they both felt like multilayered and very alive beings.
“Arden was quiet for a few moments. Then he said dreamily, “Those old stories about virgin sacrifices being sent to dragons—they were never true. I’m thinking I missed out on something life changing, if all the virgins were as eager as you. I could have had whole meadows full of virgins, all desperate to be touched. Virgin orgies.” Raif sighed. Nobody had ever understood this.
“I was a virgin. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to be touched or that I didn’t think about it. In fact, I had a lot of time to think. I was just waiting for the right one.” Arden’s voice went serious. “I am honored, you know, that you chose me.” Then he ruined it by adding dreamily, “You are the best virgin sacrifice imaginable.” “Your brothers sent me,” Raif reminded him, which shut Arden up for a while. Then he began to whisper in Raif’s ear—a long, increasingly absurd, and utterly distracting fantasy involving a fishing boat run aground, public nudity, ropes, and a love potion that meant “A hundred orgasms between us, Raif, or we would drop dead within a week, and so I begged you, my treasure, begged you to take my cock and….” They made it to double figures before breakfast.”
I quoted this little bit of silliness because I thought the romance was nicely done. However, the story is also about a fight against a tyrannical shadow and I had issues with this storyline. First and foremost I think I understand that the shadow is supposed to represent tyranny, the fight against tyranny never ends and anybody can fall victim to it, but I am reading a fantasy series and by book three I am getting a little bored by a villain *whom nobody seems to be able to overcome*. I understand it is getting weaker and weaker, but honestly I cannot help but wish we would get a new villain already.
But this was not the main reason why I was bored and annoyed while I was reading parts of this book. As you can see from the blurb, Arden and Raif end up chasing the shadow in the city of Aliann, which is at least in part inspired by medieval Venice. Almost the whole book takes place in Aliann and our guys get to participate in Aliann’s politics. You see, Aliann is preparing for the elections while its duke is on the death bed.
“Tomorrow, the Ten meet in private to ratify selection criteria for the representatives of the fifty districts. The heads of the Fifty Families are meeting today to nominate a choice of electors for each district. The districts will then choose their representatives, who vote on the electors, who vote on which of the Ten should be duke.” Raif blinked. “That’s a little—” “Complicated? We like it that way. All is balanced, and no one group has too much power.” “Except the one who can bribe the most electors.””
I don’t know what associations anybody else may have when they read this paragraph, but my first thought was, wait, why am I reading about American elections? I am an American, and I am willing to believe that I have absorbed too much information about the circus that our politics has become, in my opinion, and I now see it everywhere, but “fifty families”?
Let me be very clear here, I am not the kind of reader who thinks that a work of fiction shouldn’t be political. I think that folks who say that fiction shouldn’t contain messages usually just disagree with the message of the story; however, I also think that the story itself should be the message. What it comes down to is that at times (not all the time) I felt that I was reading a propaganda piece instead of a fantasy story and it jerked me out of the story several times. While I really liked the writing overall, I did not feel that the message was done elegantly enough.
And message or no message, I felt that the book dragged in places. It has 7800 locations on my Kindle and I love long books, but often I felt that political conversations went nowhere and the political storyline only started moving after about 60 percent of the book.