Title: Draconian Measures (Gaven #3)
Author: J.C. Owens
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: N/A
Genre: M/M fantasy romance
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A surprisingly amusing story of love between species which, unfortunately became a little repetitive towards the end.
The immortal Finnarians mate for life and once they find their mate, nothing on earth can make them leave them. But what about when that mate is not Finnarian at all, but a stubborn, fiery, extremely irritable Draconian? What if that Draconian wants nothing at all to do with his Finnarian mate? It seems the Finnarian prince, Sadan, is going to have his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he is just as stubborn and far more persistent than said Draconian has ever had to deal with.
Graitaan is the last remaining Draconian and he has attracted the eye of a Finnarian prince, who claims that he is his bloodmate. Sadan may want to be mated, but Graitaan has developed a passionate hatred for his Finnarian commander, prince or not. Too bad Finnarians are persistent as the hells. Especially this one.
This book is the prequel to the two other books in this fantasy series: Gaven and Gaven 2: The Bonding. However, whereas the first two books were very series in tone and dealt with themes such as slavery and dubious consent, the tone of this book is entirely different. Instead of angst and emotional turmoil, this book is very lighthearted in tone and deals in an almost comic fashion with the relationship between Sadan, the father of the hero of the previous book and the grumpy Graitaan.
We first meet this couple in Gaven 2: The Bonding when Sadan travels to meet Gaven and give Vayl his blessing on their bonding. During that book we are given teasing hints of the difficulty Sadan had in wooing Graitaan. In this book we get to see that wooing as Sadan is determined that Graitaan is his mate, and Graitaan is equally determined that he is not. In terms of plot there isn’t much that actually happens: Graitaan and Sadan meet when both are involved in helping the Masaran King fight a war. After the war they travel to Finneria where Graitaan really has the pressure applied in the form of a young Vayl, who was utterly delightful. This means that the book is technically a prequel because in the time line it happens many years before Gaven. However, much of the groundwork of the series in terms of setting and worldbuilding is done in the first two books, so I still recommend that you read those first.
The part of the book I liked a great deal was in the prickly interaction between Sadan and Graitaan, and the character of Graitaan especially who was a bad-tempered being on the whole. He’s a Draconian which means that, although he stand upright like a human and has arms, his physiology is closer to that of a dragon. He has scales instead of skin, a crest, the slatted pupils of a reptile, a muzzle, wings and claws. For the most part, this didn’t bother me because he was such a delightful character and I particularly liked the parts where we get his thoughts. He’s the last of his kind on the planet, having been part of a battalion of Draconians loaned to the Masarian king. The last of his friends died many years before and Graitaan is now trapped in a world which views him with a mix of fear and suspicion. I found his lonley situation quite affecting, and the parts where he describes his upbringing on his own planet were tinged with sadness and nostalgia tempered with his own attempts to prove to himself that he didn’t care about his lonely state. The first person narratives alternate between Graitaan and Sadan and yet I still felt I knew Graitaan a lot better, perhaps because we get more of his thoughts. For me Sadan was just a little too smug and perfect. His complete confidence that Graitaan would be his, despite Graitaan’s protestations to the contrary, was at first a little amusing but after 100 pages or so started to grate on the nerves.
This leads me to the part of the book which didn’t work for me. Nearly the entire is constructed through internal dialogue. Whilst this enabled me to find out lots of background information on Graitaan and Sadan, leading to thorough characterisation, it also got a little tiresome as the book continued. This was especially the case because a lot of the internal musings of the characters cover the same ground, ie. Sadan knowing that Graitaan is his mate and not taking no for an answer, and Graitaan fuming over the fact that Sadan is ignoring his protestations. This meant that by the time I’d read three quarters of the book I was getting tired of reading the same thing over and over, so what started out as amusing became a little tedious.
Another part which didn’t work so well were the sex scenes. Although these were well written, and certainly interesting in terms of Draconian physiology, I just couldn’t get past the fact that it was a human-like man having sex with a lizard. Maybe some readers wouldn’t be put off by this, but it affected my enjoyment of that aspect of the book.
So overall, I had a bit of mixed response to this book. Much of it was amusing and I really liked the character of Graitaan and the younger version of Vayl. However, the fact that it got a little repetitive towards the end meant that my enjoyment waned in the last third. Those readers who liked the first two books in the series will probably still want to give this one a go, but I would recommend Gaven as a good place to start the series rather than this book.