In honour of the recent release of Lindsey Piper’s Blood Warrior, I thought I’d do a bit of a plug for this fantastic series.
I’m not much of one for reviewing other people’s work. I’m too much of a hard arse and far too judgmental, but these books and the intriguing characters sunk their hooks in and gave me the kind of reading shake up I love.
“The Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons, were once worshiped as earthly gods. Centuries later and facing extinction, they fight at the whim of human cartels for the privilege of perpetuating their bloodlines.” Taken from Lindsey Piper’s website.
I picked up the first book, Caged Warrior, based on its cover. As I’ve said before, I don’t love a lot of romance covers and anything that has bodice ripping connotations is an instant ugh for me. The cover of Caged Warrior lacked that god awful cheese factor and seriously appealed to my aesthetic. The grittiness, the raw aggression in the heroines gaze and, lets face it, the heroes body is about as beautiful as a man can get.
After a quick read of the blurb I was in and boy am I so glad I did.
The story begins when Nynn is released from a laboratory where she has been treated as a lab rat for the last year. She is given over to Leto to train as a cage fighter. Their relationship begins as warden and prisoner in a violent confrontation that sets up an aggressive dynamic. As the time progresses their dynamic shifts to trainer and trainee, then cage fighting partners and eventually, friends to lovers. The journey is anything but easy, both characters are deeply affected by each others presence, both are woken to truths about themselves, their histories and their lives that they would rather not face.
I just love books that break rules and Caged Warrior sure does that. The heroine, Nynn, is staunch, stroppy and intelligent, as many good PNR genre heroines are. Her journey from broken woman to powerful Dragon Warrior is awesome, her devotion and commitment to her stolen son is something every mother can relate to.
Leto really breaks the hero mold. He is not a nice guy. He’s violent and abusive. He shames, degrades and hurts Nynn all in the name of training her to fight. You’d think this would put me off him as a hero, but his behavior is so in keeping with his upbringing and his position as a slave/gladiator that I couldn’t help but have compassion and empathy for his broken life. I really understood why Leto was doing what he did, could see how it damaged him, even when he couldn’t. To see him wake to the truth of his slavery was both beautiful and painful.
I think this is Lindsey’s skill. She is unafraid in her characterization and doesn’t shy away from her characters faults. She also doesn’t try and tidy them up or make them more appealing. It’s this fearlessness that I love. Her writing is unsanitized, gritty and brutally honest and I adore it.
In Silent Warrior, book 1.5, we get to know Hark and Silence and are swept into the whirlwind of their meeting. Two characters could not be more opposed. Silence is, well, silent and Hark talks, thinks and moves at a mile a minute pace. Lindsey writes in my favourite style, switching POV between the hero and heroine and it couldn’t suit this book or these two characters any better. As Hark speaks the language speeds, becomes chaotic and cluttered. As Silence speaks it slows, becomes sharper more cutting. The effect is to leave the reader feeling as unbalanced as the characters feel, as bombarded, as ripped open, as ungrounded. Perfect!
It took me a little longer to get into Blood Warrior, but once in I was immersed. So much about the Dragon King culture began to unfold as Tallis and Kavya began their journey towards each other. My god, talk about clash of the arrogant. I loved watching these two climb slowly down from their high horses as they learned about each other and their different cultures. I love that neither was toppled, that both retained dignity, and chose to climb down. So often in PNR the main characters are whacked down. Not Tallis and Kavya, they wake each other, lift each other, learn to move past ego and prejudice so that they can love each other as they are clearly meant to. Lindsey did it again. Two well rounded, complex, likable despite their faults characters who I just fell for.
The language in Blood Warrior is more poetic that in the previous two books and that is one of the things I love about Lindsey Piper’s writing. Her language is informed by her characters.
Leto and Nynn are cut and dry people, hard and edgy. The language of Caged Warrior is the same. Hark and Silence? Well I’ve already told you about the language in their story. As for Tallis and Kavya, they are a pair of dreamers and their books speaks in the language of their idealistic souls.
I have a very short list of favourite series/authors. The Dragon Kings takes pride of place among them.
I recommend this series for anyone who loves Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series or the Black Dagger Brotherhood. While they are three distinctly different series thay all have a level of honesty and rawness that put them in the same category(in my opinion anyway.)