Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 19th August 2021
I seem to have picked this up mostly on a whim and for the promise of dragons, because I didn’t know much about it going in. Which was quite nice, actually: I wasn’t looking for the love story, wasn’t expecting the discussions of chronic illness, responsibility, family, etc. I just knew there were dragons, and I wasn’t disappointed there!
If you’re looking for Western-style dragons, of course, you might find this disappointing. So too if you’re wanting huge dragons that rule the skies. The dragons of this alternate world are small, stunted by pollution, and used and abused by humans for fights and as pets. Kai cares deeply about dragons, carefully taking them in and splicing their broken wings, disinfecting their cuts, and trying to bring them back to health. Eli is in Beijing to study and do research, but his supervisor drags him out to the dragon fights — which is where he meets Kai. They’re instantly antagonistic, not dramatically so, but because Eli wants to help and heal, and Kai refuses to be pitied.
The love story that develops is a quiet one, wrapped around Kai’s concern for the dragons and Eli’s exploration of some of his family roots. It feels a very tender story: there are no huge dramatic events, but a normal and healthy relationship that’s trying to find room for both parties, and find a balance.
As a warning, the ending is not a “Happy Ever After” but a “Happy For Now”; much can happen, given Kai’s illness and the plans he makes. The future isn’t wrapped up neatly in a bow — but nonetheless the story is one of hope.