Author: JB McDonald
Cover Artist: Alessia Brio
Length: 11,800 words
Everything was supposed to work out. They had the dragon under control, they were back with the mercenaries - things were supposed to be good now. That was the plan. Then word of plague in Katsu's country arrives, and with it knowledge that will shatter everything Ashe thought he knew about his lover.
When Katsu has to make a choice between Ashe or sailing overseas to a country that abandoned him to save a beloved sister—Well, some choices are harder than others. Some are nearly impossible to make.
At the end of the last section, reviewed here, I griped about having to make a grumpy Katsu-face and snagging the next installment just to find out what happens next. After reading Dragon Soul, I have no reason to change that assessment, and in fact, I’m getting really annoyed about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story, all 44 pages of it. It’s well written, has a lot of character development for Katsu, whose eternal grumpiness hides a caring heart, and moved the overall story along. Katsu’s been an enigma all along, and here we find out a lot of what he’s been hiding. Ashe’s troubles with the dragon are at this point manageable, and he’s showing some nice growth in the relationship now that he’s not being sucked dry. I’d worry a whole lot more about spoilers except that the blurb pretty much makes it a moot point. It doesn’t hide a thing. Frankly, trying to maintain any sort of mystery in each segment is probably really difficult by now, since each blurb spoils the story before.
Anyone coming in at this point would probably be okay with knowing what’s going on—the author gets the world-building and backstory out without turning it into giant infodumps or chunks of exposition, but what is missing here is a complete story arc. An entirely new problem has been presented, but it is in no way resolved.
At this point, there are five installments out, and according to a note from the author, at least another three after this one, all with that serial novel feel. I’m glad this couple’s adventures continue, and I want to read them, but not forty or fifty pages at a time at intervals of months. I think I will wait until the entire arc has scrolled out and is finally compiled into an omnibus edition, at which time I will happily pay a novel price for a novel’s worth of story. Possible this could be two novels’ worth of story, although the dragon/Ashe story line didn’t feel completely wrapped up.
Consequently, this is really, really hard to rate. What’s here is good, but what’s here is one installment of a serial novel, though not advertised or sold as such. That’s an issue, but an even bigger issue is that there isn’t a complete story arc here, just the first act of something more complex. I can hope that the author and the publisher will confer and decide to present the entire story arc in one package, because I am probably not the only reader grumbling at being strung along like this.
What I’d like to do is hold onto the rating until I read the rest of the story. It's probably a 5. What I’m supposed to do is rate what’s in the file in front of me. It’s smooth, it’s a good read, it’s not complete. 3 stars