Master of Dragons, by Angela Knight

20 Jul
Cover for MASTER OF DRAGONS: on a background representing a masonry wall and a stone arch, a muscular, barechested white man with long dark hair, and a sinuous dragon tattoo over his sternum; hands akimbo and a sword on his left hip

This is my entry for July’s TBR Challenge, and I’m making it fit in a very idiosyncratic way: I was aiming for any unread print book in my house, published at least 20 years ago (VINTAGE, get it?). Of course, I couldn’t find even one (watch me find a dozen as soon as the review is up). So I moved my goal to “oldest paper ARC in my possession”, and…look, I’ve had it for over fifteen years, I’m going with it (not taking bets on how many I’ve actually have had for longer, or how soon after posting I’ll find at least three).

It’s been a minute since I’ve read any of Ms Knight’s work, and this is the fifth novel (and eighth overall installment) in the Mageverse series, so please do take that into account when reading this review.

Reader, beware: there’s quite a bit of sex on the page, as well as more than a bit of violence; USA/Britsh/Western-centric, with a touch of Islamophobia (see footnote 1).

Master of Dragons, by Angela Knight

The premise of the series is that our world, Mortal Earth, is tied to a mirror Earth in the Mageverse, a world where the Sidhe are real, Arthur and his Knights are vampires, there are aliens, unicorns and dragons, magic is tangible and prophecies come true (see footnote 2).

The premise of this book is that a goddess has been trapped in a sword for millennia, and that she must be freed by one of her descendants, so that together they can defeat a force that threatens to destroy both worlds.

Here’s the blurb from the paper ARC:

In her youth, fairy princess Nineva Morrow engaged in magic, and evil forces rendered her an orphan–isolated and incapable of trusting in anyone’s survival. But after years of hiding on Earth, she attracts attention with her powers once more–from more knights that she can handle.

Now at the center of a rebellious Mageverse noble’s plot and helplessly dominated by a powerful, body-possessing spirit, Nineva’s only hope is the smoldering dragon knight Kel. This renegade of Arthur’s court has enough desire to burn down every door to her heart–if the surrounding forces of King Llyr would subside long enough to let him.

The survival of the Mageverse hangs in a passionate balance of entitlement and pleasure, with destruction threatening to bring an entire magical universe to its knees…

There are two main plot threads: Nineva needs Kel’s help to free the goddess Semira, and there’s an ongoing rebellion brewing in one of the Sidhe kingdoms on the mirror Earth, which an evil force has been using to try and break the wards that protect both worlds. Through the prophecy at the beginning of the novel, both threads resolve into one in the climax of the novel.

One of the tropes of this novel is fated mates as an explanation for instalove, and insta-lust as the vehicle to the HEA.

The prophecy ties their destinies together; Nineva has been having increasingly intense erotic dreams about Kel for about a dozen years, so when they meet, she already has the hots for him.

And he, well, he’s a dragon, but also a fairly sexual straight guy, who very much likes what he sees.

Which is fortunate, as one of the things the goddess asks of them is to have sex, ASAP, as that will feed her some much needed magic-which will come in handy when they eventually try to free her.

Because this is a series with overarching plotlines, characters (mostly couples) from previous books show up at key points, not gratuitously but to move the action along. Still, there were a couple of times when I had to backtrack to figure out the relationships.

There are bits of exposition, but generally short and well placed; as several of the people in the story come from Mortal Earth, they stand-in for the reader, adding in-world context without cluttering up the narrative too much.

The characterization is light for all characters, as there’s rather a lot going on with a rather large cast. Still, there is some character development for our two protagonists.

Nineva has more of a character arc, as she has to work on trusting Kel; which is difficult not just because of the blasted prophecy, but because she’s been alone and on the run from assassins for the last twelve years. It’s hard to form bonds of trust under those conditions. And then, there are the nightmares.

For his part, Kel has issues with the fact that, as a dragon, he’s not supposed to have an actual mate; not just that dragons don’t have that kind of relationship, but that he believes no one would expect it of him, especially not a Sidhe princess who’s also a goddess’ avatar. A bit of “not good enough for her” mixed with “we are not even of the same species” kinda thing.

The worldbuilding, wherein there are magical beings (were/dire wolves being but one) roaming Mortal Earth and traveling easily between the two planets, has just enough detail to hold together, though it’s too tied to recent USA history to be memorable, or truly original (see footnote 1).

This is also a very heteronormative universe, whether it’s Sidhe, vampires, witches, dragons or aliens, good or evil. Sure, there may be the occasional threesome here and there, but it’s all about virile, masculine men, and petite sensual women.

As this is an erotic romance, there’s quite a bit of sex, and not just between Nineva and Kel: we also get murderous villainess sex!

The saving grace is that Ms Knight writes good sex scenes as a rule, and here she works to distinguish between our protagonists’ having sex (which is fated to lead to true love), and the evil alien using innocent people, for sex and otherwise.

There’s a whiff of the “gently used heroine” trope (hat tip to willaful for her thoughts here and here), but since Kel has spent most of his immortal life trapped in a sword (yes, like the goddess–it’s a theme), at first the different levels of sexual experience don’t seem too disparate.

Of course, this doesn’t last; we are soon told, and shown, just how good Kel is in the sack, and how well he reads Nineva’s body. Partly, natch, because they’re fated mates.

I confess that I was not in the mood for the frequent sex scenes, because most of them felt perfunctory rather than contributing to the narrative. Sex in lieu of relationship building only goes so far, and I was invested enough in both characters to want more for them.

Still, Master of Dragons is an easy, engaging read that I enjoyed for what it is: erotic fantasy romance.

7.25 out of 10.

* * * *

1 Master of Dragons was first published in 2007; during a discussion on how to help Mortal Earth’s humanity not destroy itself, there’s a line about Al-Qaeda and “extremist mullahs”. Later on, a line about “infiltrating the terrorist forces in Iraq” and then a mention of 9/11. No mention of the USA’s Christofascists, though.

2 The popularity of British folklore in the USA making itself felt here.

3 Responses to “Master of Dragons, by Angela Knight”

  1. S. 21/07/2022 at 4:55 AM #

    Interesting. lol
    I think I’ve read a short story by this author once, it was part of an anthology I got to read something by a different author, and to be honest, I can’t remember anything about it anymore!

  2. whiskeyinthejar 06/08/2022 at 1:56 PM #

    One of the tropes of this novel is fated mates as an explanation for instalove, and insta-lust as the vehicle to the HEA.

    The fated mates of paranormal is why I struggle with it, gives excuse not to write in that wonderful emotional development. I’ve been feeling the world-building lately, though, and been getting back into reading them.

    • azteclady 06/08/2022 at 7:45 PM #

      I think that there are a few authors who do fated mates well, because they allow for the individual to say, “yeah, not so fast there, there are things here that are a deal breaker”, but otherwise, fated mates can be really problematic.

      Reading paranormal for the worldbuilding can be quite rewarding, IME.

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