Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven’t been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They’re wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him—unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire’s twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire’s machinations and his own lethal birthright.
Dragon Unleashed, by author Grace Draven, is the second installment in the authors Fallen Empire series. As this is the second installment in the Fallen Empire series, you would be best served if you have some semblance of knowledge as to the world that this story takes place in. I say that because the main characters from Phoenix Unbound (Gilene and Valden) show up in this story briefly. This story focuses on Halani, who is the free trader from Phoenix Unbound and Malachus, who we have not seen before. It is not a continuation of Gilene's story.
Let's begin with Malachus. Mal has spent hundreds of years tacking down thieves that looted his mother-bond (valuable piece of his mothers skeleton) from the monastery from which he was raised. Mal's has lived a long and lonely life hunting down the artifact that was stolen from the Sovatin monks who raised him. Mal's travels take him to the Krael Empire where he meets Halani. Mal is shown a vision of Halani and the stolen mother-bond which he has been tracking. Mal is magic disguised as a human. Mal must retrieve the mother-bond in order for him to take on his true form as a draga (dragon). When Mal meets up with Halani's caravan, he is attacked by thieves, and saved by Halani. Long story short, the two work out feelings but it takes up nearly the entire story before Mal allows Halani to see who he really is. Mal also finds himself being Asil's friend and protector which I have to say is adorable.
Halani has travelled with a trading caravan for most of her life along with her child minded mother Asil. She's a gifted healer with earth magic. Magic welding of any kind is outlawed in the Empire so Halani has hid the source of her potent healing powers for her entire life and is used to living with many secrets and lies. I dare say that Halani's mother is one of the bright spots of this story. Her past is incredibly painful, yet she never once shirked her responsibilities as a mother. Halani and Gilene became friends in the previous novel when Gilene was hiding out afraid of being captured along with Valden aka Azarion Ataman.
The other characters you should focus on are Gharek of Cabast aka cat's paws and Empress Dalvila who readers met in Phoenix Unbound. These two characters could be considered antagonist for our reluctant heroines as everything they do is in direct confrontation. The Empress lost her consort and an arm in the last battle she faced against Valden. She truly believes that if she drinks the blood of a draga she will be restored to her former glory. Gharek has been tasked to find the mother-bond rumored to be in her land and bring it to her in order to trap the dragon and take its life to fuel her own.
The basic reason for my rating are pretty simplistic. The first 3/4 of the book is a grind of slow action and tension as to what is going to happen next. Secrets between Mal and Hali could have been revealed sooner, but thankfully it didn't destroy their relationship. Halani warns her uncle against buying a strange yet enigmatic artifact could cause trouble for the caravan. But, her uncle is as hard headed and unmovable as they come which leads to even more trouble. The pacing was quite literally different from Phoenix Unbound. The action in Phoenix was way more intense and suspenseful.