Highland Dragon Rebel: Dawn of the Highland Dragon #2 by Isabel Cooper

Highland Dragon Rebel: Dawn of the Highland Dragon #2 by Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper returns to the blog today with the second in her Dawn of the Highland Dragon historic romance series. Please read on for my review and don’t forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway where you could win one of three print copies of Highland Dragon Warrior, book one in the series.

Highland Dragon Rebel

Different in pacing than the first in the series, this is Moiread’s story – a dragon shifter with some 300 years behind her, she’s a member of the MacAlasdair clan, although they are often off on their own adventures, and rarely together. In the 14th century, Scotland and Wales are under near-constant siege from the English, but a small break in hostilities between the Scots and the English has just started with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton after the end of the first war for Scotland’s independence. No one expects the peace to last, and to that end a Welshman, Madoc of Avandos has come to the MacAlasdair’s to gain their assistance in his quest to visit sites of power and use his skills as a sorcerer to keep the hands of the English from falling too harshly on his people. An alliance of long-standing between the families, and while Madoc believes that his beloved Wales will never be out from under English subjugation, his quest is to do what he can, using all means possible, to mitigate the impact. He requires a bodyguard, and Moiread, being both fierce and at loose ends takes the challenge.

Moiread is wonderful here: their story takes place almost entirely on the road as she is supporting, protecting and enjoying her time with Madoc. He’s not overtly rebellious, and doesn’t have any true date by which his quest must end, but haste in all things – and the two are moving quickly throughout Scotland, Wales and even England as he seeks out sites of power, obtains assent and assistance from various families of power, avoids assassins and slowly comes to find Moiread as wonderful and capable, not to mention intriguing, as he had first thought. For her part, she realizes that Madoc is and must focus on his quest, and everything that she wants from a man – including a lifetime together, has to be put aside until his purpose is fulfilled. He’s long lived as a sorcerer, but she also knows that she could outlive him by centuries, and we are always wondering if either of those two facts play on her mind even as they find themselves drawn closer together. When you add in their attraction, the fear of assassins, the fact that the MacAlasdair’s are not the only, nor the most powerful dragon clan out there and there are powers that even rival Madoc’s own, there are more than a few moments where it looks as if they have no chance to succeed.

Cooper brings the places and tension to the fore in this one, with the romance being secondary for may good and valid reasons, even as their connection and interactions show just how well suited they are. While we don’t really have moments of settled down roots, the pacing and the ‘road trip’ feel that the story brings just adds to the intrigue and engagement. With plenty of moments set with some actual historic events and in real places, the story has a sense of ‘possible’ even as it’s wholly fantastical. The fragile peace from the treaty wasn’t to last long, just a year, but this story stops before that, yet doesn’t miss on action, intrigue or emotion.

 

 

Highland Dragon Rebel: Dawn of the Highland Dragon #2 by Isabel Cooper

Title: Highland Dragon Rebel
Author: Isabel Cooper
Series: Dawn of the Highland Dragon #2
Also in this series: Highland Dragon Warrior
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Historical Romance
Published by: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1492632066
Published on: 7 November, 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 352
Audio Length: 10 Hours (est)
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameOne Flame

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Madoc of Avandos is on a journey to cement alliances. Targeted by an assassin, he needs a companion who can fight. When dragon shifter Moiread MacAlasdair returns from war, he knows she's the best woman for the job. Duty and political strength compel Moiread to agree, but when they cross into the otherworld and Madoc's life is threatened, Moiread jumps into protection mode-and will do whatever it takes to keep the man of her dreams alive.

Dawn of the Highland Dragon Series: Highland Dragon Warrior (Book 1)Highland Dragon Rebel (Book 2)Highland Dragon Unleashed (Book3)

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

 

“You’ll only have to do this the first time,” Moiread said. She sat tailor-fashion on a flattish stone. The brook at her side rushed loudly, swollen with the spring rains. “After, it’ll just be a matter of saying the words. It’s a compact you’re making, like most spells, though I’ve not heard of anything coming in person to agree. Too minor.”

“It’s rare that they do,” Madoc agreed, “or at least rare that they show themselves for it.”

Magic, or most magic, was a matter of talking directly to the forces of the world: the spirits of those forces in the oldest tales, the demons or angels governing their spheres in more modern lore. All spells invoked, most indirectly. Madoc had never been present for an actual summoning. When he was thinking sensibly, he was glad of that. Everything he’d learned said that even the holy ones would frighten the bravest man.

“Good,” said Moiread, evidently sharing his thoughts. “Here.”

She held out a twig of yew, dark needles and bright-red berries attached. In the last village they’d passed through, Moiread had taken them by a churchyard and stopped long enough to break the twig off the tree, which, as in many villages, grew by the gate.

“Now,” she went on, when Madoc had taken the twig, “hold it up and repeat after me.”

Slowly Moiread began, in Latin as good as any priest’s. “In the names of Gabriel, Amariel, Nargeron, and Almighty God, I call upon you, O powers of the worlds. I invoke you, and by invoking, I command you to grant me sight of the union of the spheres. Part the veil that blinds mortal eyes and give me to see the subtle workings of the world, now and whensoever I should invoke it again.”

As Madoc followed her lead, he felt power gathering. It wasn’t much—as Moiread had said, this was a minor spell—but the earth and the air both shifted, as if he could feel them being drawn slightly toward the yew twig. The twig itself began to feel both heavier and less present. Madoc was half worried that his fingers would go through it. In the sun at midday, it was hard to see, but he also thought it glowed. Moiread nodded. “Now crush the berries. Close your eyes, and smear them on your lids.”

The sliminess Madoc had expected lasted barely a moment. Then it turned to a cool tingling across his closed eyelids and, in another heartbeat, vanished. His skin felt untouched.

“And open.”

Madoc did, and caught his breath. He was no stranger to magic, but never had he been able to see the whole world through such entirely different eyes.

A faint haze hung above the grass and trees, a paler shadow of their natural green. The rocks and road looked normal, though their colors were deeper than they had been a moment ago. Madoc looked to the horses, peacefully cropping new grass a few feet away, and saw that each of them glowed a shade of brown: the steady darkness of wheat bread for Moiread’s horse and a slightly lighter color for Rhuddem.

Madoc raised a hand in front of his face. His fingers shone red, shot through with streaks of silver. He flexed them, and the colors shifted accordingly.

“By God,” he said. “This is truly a lovely art you’ve shown me.”

“Useful, at times. But aye,” Moiread said admittedly, “rather beautiful too, in its way.”

She was beautiful. The spell stripped her of her illusion. Her hair lengthened slightly, her figure swelled and narrowed, and her face became a shade more delicate, so that a young-looking woman in men’s clothing sat facing him. In the world of the spell, a pattern of dancing lights played across her body, like diamonds set onto the crisp blue that washed over her skin.

In this world, her shadow was nothing remotely human. Two vast wings stretched out behind her, the brook running through their shade. When she tilted her head to watch him, the shape of an immense head, on a serpentine neck, separated itself from the larger shadow and turned toward Madoc. The same pattern of lights glittered in the shadow.

Mayhap it would have been sensible for Madoc to fear her then, but he wished only that he had more time to sit and watch her.

“A bit revealing, aye?” Moiread asked, clearly aware of where he was looking. To his relief, she sounded amused. “That is why we don’t generally teach the spell. We didn’t come up with it, but we’ve enough luck that not many know it.”

“Do you care so greatly for concealment?”

She shrugged a shoulder. “It’s no great peril, in my view of things, to be found out. There are already those who know what we are and speak of it with varying degrees of truth. Once more knew, or we were more willing to admit it, or both.”

“What happened?”

“To us? Time and duty. The world gets fuller. A clan turns from hunting to farming, and it’s no’ such great use for its laird to spend his days flying in dragon shape. Less use still in court, and we must go there to be part of the greater world, to lead a clan rather than a tribe in a cave. Our sires have other duties, and we as well. Our foes have magic of their own. Dragon shape is no sure victory.”

“I have heard that,” said Madoc, “and seen a little too. Only ran into one sorcerer myself.”

“We’ve not fought them often, no’ directly. The English magic turns more toward enchanted weapons”—she rubbed her calf, wincing in memory—“ or strengthening castles. Crafty spells.”

“Like the one I’m doing?” Madoc asked, speaking the words that courtesy would have Moiread avoid.

“No shame in taking a weapon from your foe,” said Moiread. “We may have fought the people we learned this from”—she gestured around her, indicating the world revealed—“ or we may fight them in the years to come. I’m still glad to have it.”

“So am I.”

 

 

About Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her boyfriend and a houseplant she's managed to keep alive for over a year now—a personal best. By day, she's a mild-mannered editor at a legal publishing company. By night, she's really quite a geek: polyhedral dice, video games, and everything. She only travels through time the normal direction, and has never fought any kind of demon, unless you count younger sisters. She can waltz, though.

 

 

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