I don't often review books, but I have just finished - and thoroughly enjoyed - a fantasy series by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett.
Oh, no! Not another story about people riding dragons!
Yes, but these dragons have serious attitude and a unique charm, and this is a fresh take on this fantasy staple.
The series follows the conclusion and aftermath of a prolonged war between two mythical countries whose cultures happen to be strongly reminiscent of imperial Russia and China.
Havemercy is the only book where we really get to meet the dragons - the decisive weapons that finish the war - which is a shame because they are offensive, belligerent, and vastly entertaining characters in their own right. They are all destroyed at the end of the book.
Shadow Magic follows the diplomatic efforts to thrash out a peace treaty, despite the defeated Emperor's perfidious attempts to hold the diplomatic mission hostage and launch a sneak counterattack on the conquering country's capital.
Dragon Soul sees one of the legendary dragons almost resurrected, in violation of the peace treaty, while Steelhands follows the aftermath of this discovery and a counter-plot by the other side to recreate the dragon corps.
In all four books, the magic is ever-present and an essential part of each plot, but is understated and only brought in where needed. It's rather like how I prefer my sci-fi technology - a comfortable part of the furniture rather than pushed in front of my eyes waving its arms and yelling at me to admire its cleverness.
Jones and Bennett use multiple third person points of view throughout, but they seem to have specialized in pairing off their POV characters so you get to see different perspectives on the same set of events.
I inadvertently found myself in this situation in Tiamat's Nest when the paths of my two POV characters converged half-way through the book. At first I found this troublesome and I almost resorted to finishing the story from just one POV and ditching the other. Eventually, though, I realized that there were great opportunities to be had from choosing a strategic moment to switch from one POV and then resume the same scene from another perspective.
In all the books, the real plot is masterfully hidden behind an elaborate smokescreen of seemingly trivial events, and the full import of what's happening ambushes you late on in the book. It's a bit like spotting some minor irregularities in a set of accounts that lead you to unearth a global scandal involving world leaders and organized crime.
Finally, there is the cast of colorful and well-drawn characters who bring this rich world to life.
Full marks for an entertaining read.