Far away on Wilde Island lives a princess born with a dragon claw.So I have a little thing for stories with a reference to Merlin. It was my first hint of the setting, that it is our world. Dragon's Keep begins in the year 1145 when Stephen and Maud are fighting for control over England. Rosalind only knows what her mother hopes, that she will be the 21st queen of Wilde Island who will "redeem the name Pendragon. End war with a wave of her hand. And restore the glory of Wilde Island."
No one, save her mother, knows her terrible secret. And the queen has forced her to wear gloves at all times until a cure can be found. Rosalind is a princess, so she must be perfect--how else can she fulfill Merlin's six-hundred-year-old prophesy that will restore her banished royal family to its rightful throne?
But Rosalind's flaw cannot be separated from her fate. And soon the bloodthirsty dragon that plagues Wilde Island carries her off. The dragon sees beauty where her mother sees only shame. And on Dragon's Keep, Rosalind comes to understand the truth behind the prophesy that has haunted her since birth.
Is Rosie a princess? Or the spawn of a dragon? Which part of her blood holds the secret to who she really is?
Merlin's 600 year old prophesy seems to have little to do with her though. Rosie doesn't feel like she could possibly have the power to do this. She just has this ugly lizard claw where her left ring finger should be, her wedding finger. What man would want a bride with such a deformation? Her mother is determined to make it happen though and pins her hopes on Prince Henry from over the sea marrying Rosie, because then she'd be in a position to end the civil war in England. After all, they are the long-banished line of Pendragons, waiting to return. Who better to end the conflict, right?
Obviously things get more complicated than that, but I enjoyed the story Janet Lee Carey spun out. Despite the tropes, it was a fun story, one I'd read again. I especially enjoyed the dragons, first the she-dragon, then Lord Faul, the dragon who carried her off, and also the dragon hatchlings Lord Faul makes her tend. The story was a bit slow going at first, but it picks up speed and builds to a rewarding end. Readers who prefer fast paced stories may not appreciate the slower tempo of this one. But it's well worth the time. The atmosphere and characters illustrate a different time period as Rosalind discovers who she really is inside. Her determination to keep going even when she's overwhelmed, her loyalty to those she cares for, and her adherence to her sworn word make her someone worth knowing. And those qualities are ultimately what gives her the ability to make both Merlin's and the dragons' prophesies come true.
Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying and the royal witch hunter begins a vengeful quest to hunt down girls with fire in their hearts and sparks in their soul.
Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith's daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these, wanting more can be dangerous.
Accused of witchcraft, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. The journey is bleaker than they ever imagined and they have no choice but to accept when an enigmatic huntsman offers them shelter in the dangerous Dragonswood. Staying with him poses risks of its own: Tess has no idea how to handle the attraction she feels for him--or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.
This story begins in 1192, two generations after Dragon's Keep. I admit to being mildly disoriented at first. The year clue helped to determine when this book happened, but I was still expecting something more immediately after as a sequel, not this longer time span. It didn't help that Tess was used as a character name in the prior book. However, it didn't take long before I was absorbed in the story. In some ways I enjoyed this one more than Dragon's Keep. It doesn't take as long for the driving action to kick off, and even though this is still Tess's story, she has more characters for her personality to play off of. Rosalind was isolated in many ways even from the people around her. Tess, on the other hand, has two best friends, so we see her interacting more on a familiar level with people her age. And she is also close to her mother, a significant difference from Rosalind's relationship with hers.
More people are involved in this story with their various motivations, and the stakes are bigger. Another prophesy is involved, but like in the first book, it isn't answered in the obvious way. I was kept guessing, and even when I correctly guessed parts of things, some twist would still surprise me as to the rest. The right thing to do isn't always clear, nor is is easy, but Tess does her best to make up for the danger she put her friends and their families into, which puts them in the path of making quite a few things right she hadn't been responsible for. Tess's precogs also give just enough to tantalize but not adequately predict what was actually going to happen.
I recommend checking out both of these stories and exploring their historical period charm and satisfying stories. They won't appeal to everyone, but they are worth reading at least once for the style. So I hope you'll find a cozy nook and check these out. I'll send the fairies around with refreshments. Tea? Coffee?