Book Review: Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

Dragon Actually
Title: Dragon Actually (Dragon Kin #1)
Author: G.A. Aiken
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Format: E-Book
Price: $4.95
Rating: 3 out 5

Blurb:It’s not always easy being a female warrior with a nickname like Annwyl the Bloody. Men tend to either cower in fear-a lot-or else salute. It’s true that Annwyl has a knack for decapitating legions of her ruthless brother’s soldiers without pausing for breath. But just once it would be nice to be able to really talk to a man, the way she can talk to Fearghus the Destroyer.
Too bad that Fearghus is a dragon, of the large, scaly, and deadly type. With him, Annwyl feels safe-a far cry from the feelings aroused by the hard-bodied, arrogant knight Fearghus has arranged to help train her for battle. With her days spent fighting a man who fills her with fierce, heady desire, and her nights spent in the company of a magical creature who could smite a village just by exhaling, Annwyl is sure life couldn’t get any stranger. She’s wrong…

General Observations:
~Common Female Protagonist Problems – While the narrative and characterization started out alright, Annwyl’s characterization slowly declined over the course of the novel. Annwyl started out with a good mixture of arse-kicking abilities, emotional vulnerability and psychological issues over her screwed up childhood. However, by the end of the book she was punching random people in the face just because she was upset and that random person just happen to be there and chucking sexually frustrated temper-tantrums because she can’t see her precious dragon (why she didn’t just write him letters I have no idea).

Action Women are hard characters to write, they need to have an equal amount of action scenes/fighting competency as the male characters and have a three dimensional personality, and while I personally find those components difficult to balance in my own works, I know that Action Women shouldn’t be essentially male characters with Vagina’s. I guess it comes back to the Double Standard writing trope “Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses“, which I disagree with completely.

A Writer doesn’t need to have a female protagonist beat up all the men and have the rest of them nearly pissing themselves every time the FP walks past, I don’t consider that character a “Strong Independent Woman”. I’m not saying women don’t participate in social posturing, if anything women do more social posturing than men, I’m just saying it’s not the same type of social posturing that men do nor should it be passed off as acceptable behavior. There’s a difference between someone with a fiery/spirited personality and a psychotic bitch.

~Dragon Smut – There’s quite a bit of smut in this book, alright fine a lot of smut, and most readers are willing to overlook character flaws in exchange for smut.

~Humourous Dialogue and Interesting Side Characters – I enjoyed reading interactions between Fearghus and his family members.

~Chains and Flames – This short story explaining how Fearghus’s parents, Rhiannon & Bercelak, got together and was included with Dragon Actually. I enjoyed the story of Rhiannon & Bercelak more so than Annwyl and Fearghus. A lot of things in Dragon Actually made more sense to me after reading Chains and Flames and I ended up having more respect for Rhiannon than Annwyl. It’s the reason why I gave the book three stars instead of two.

Over all, an okay book that didn’t really live up my expectations, but would still be enjoyable to the average reader.

3 comments

  1. I wouldn’t have read this and won’t be reading it. That said…

    Ah, the One Strong Woman Who Is As Good As A Man character. I have a draft post about this trend in hero narratives. I’ll finish it, one day, but I don’t like this character archetype at all. It’s a stab at feminism without the nuance. The violence you describe just makes it all the worse.

    TW: assault/abuse

    I despise characters who beat up on other characters, gender regardless, just because … because. It’s horrific. Violence isn’t funny, endearing or clever. It makes engaging in the spec fic genres hard at times, because violence is so often glorified and normalised – I have friends who want to teach me Magic: the Gathering, and I want to learn because I like strategy games and trading cards, but I’m also uncomfortable with the glorification of combat and war inherent in the material. I only have one emotional scar from physical violence, but it’s one scar too many, and as someone who has cringed away from someone’s fists while crying in fear, there is nothing worthwhile in a person who casually hits (or threatens violence on) someone else. Nothing. I don’t want this in my fiction or my lead characters – not if the narrative does not comment on this as the awfulness it is.

    (If anyone reads this, please. Write your spec fic wars, combat and revolution. I am. But write with a mind to not glorifying casual violence. Violence should be frightening and shocking and horrifying. It has a place. It shouldn’t be casual, though, and it shouldn’t be normalised. If a character takes up violent action, it should have weight. Perhaps it says something about the character’s trauma or situation, but those things shouldn’t ever go unremarked. Violence that goes unremarked is violence that has no consequence, and that leads to a world that allows a man to raise his fist to a child.)

    Um. Lighter note, now, but you’ve referenced something that’s been playing in my head over a last few weeks, so I just had to write something. I’m sorry for getting way too heavy. So. Is it well-written smut? 😉

  2. To me, with regards to Annwyl’s character arch (and I know readers are going to disagree with me), however it seemed as though the narrative was going well (with a a couple of small flaws along the way, then BAM! The last couple of chapters pretty much undid all of Annwyl’s character development, which in turn made me realise those flaws had been subtly creeping in slowly since the beginning.

    As someone who has experience with Domestic Violence, I completely agree with you on violence in the narrative scope, violence needs to serve a purpose and there needs to consequences for a characters actions (good or bad). In fact, your statement made me realise something about the relationship between two characters in The Lake of Tears WIP novel project.

    The vast majority of Raphael’s problems stem from the fact that he can’t (or won’t) accept the fact that he has essentially become the thing he hates the most (which in retrospect is a big reoccurring theme in my LoT project) and punishes/lashes out Ena because she reminds him of his abusive foster mother. The fact that nobody does anything or calls Raphael out on his bullshit attitude is a great source of tension between Ena and Raphael and his biological mother, Ena’s the only one who calls Raphael out.

    In fact, the reason why Ena does a lot of things she does is an attempt to not be like Raphael, she doesn’t want to become what she hates the most and it’s a struggle for her, but she does it anyway. However as a result, Raphael’s biological family want nothing to do with him (because they see how he treats Ena and they don’t think it’s acceptable) but at the same time, their dumping the action of “Reforming” Raphael on Ena’s shoulders (which ends really badly). If they had just taken a direct approach and told him the truth, it would have solved a lot of problems.

    Hmmm… that’s a bit dark as well, lets get back to a lighter topic, such as Dragon smut. I don’t like to grade smut, as my standards of smut might not be the same as others, but the book’s level of smut was adequate, I mean they were at it like rabbits, but at least the sentence “he ejaculated” was used in the right context I suppose :D. The funny thing about reading this book was that I happen to be reading it on the train and my partner happened to be sitting next to me (he also has a habit of reading over my shoulder), and he says. “So, Women having sex with dragons, if that’s what you’re into.” and now as a result of buying this book i now have “Woman has sex with bears” e-books in my recommended reading section on Kobo.

    • I truly dislike when the narrative does that/makes the creeping unpleasantness obvious all at once. In fact, that’s what Mockingjay did for The Hunger Games. Yes, I really hate that book. Can you tell? 😉

      *nods in agreement*

      at the same time, their dumping the action of “Reforming” Raphael on Ena’s shoulders (which ends really badly)

      Oh, I love this common trend of women reforming men! (Do I needs must specify the sarcasm?) I approve of the notion of showcasing this trend as the horror it is.

      I have just as high standards for my smut as I do everything else. Not in the amount – although there’s definitely an upper-limit where I start skim-reading because it’s not different enough (from sex scenes in the book and sex writing in general) to be interesting – but in how it’s written. (I’m seldom seeing the need for sentences like ‘he ejaculated’ well, anywhere, ever. If a cis dude is in the mix, it’s usually a given.) It’s got to be well-written and a little different, or I don’t bother. I don’t actually enjoy writing sex, but every so often I feel like I need to do it (sex scenes where the non-binary protagonist talks about how ze can imagine hir body differently while fucking hir partner only to come down from the after glow and realise hir body is what it is and how that feels; sex scenes where a kinky pansexual submissive and an asexual dom-in-denial negotiate their way to figuring out how to have sex that respects what they both need and don’t need; sex scenes that take into account and even celebrate bodily differences and disability) just because I’d love to read something well-written and interesting. I’ve read enough sex to be thoroughly bored with the majority of it. I’m a little tired of the idea that sex writing by definition is a clause for disregarding writing quality just because it’s sex, you know? Isn’t that kind of how Fifty Shades has come to be the phenomenon it is? Near-universally considered to be poorly written, but that doesn’t matter because it’s erotica?

      (Okay, I’m not going to lie: all three of those scenarios involve Leïs and Raider. They’re seriously challenging my thoughts on not writing sex scenes because their sex scenes would be so different from the majority of what exists right now. I don’t want their books to be about their relationship/romance because I’m tired of that defining what the queer genre is about, but I feel like the sex I can see them having is so radically different to what we know as sex it needs to exist. Quandary.)

      The other night I was on a train writing a story where two characters discuss, explicitly, how cis male vampires have sex (I’ll leave it at ‘it involves a syringe of blood’). So you’re not the only one!

      “Woman has sex with bears” e-books in my recommended reading section on Kobo.

      Since ‘bear’ is a gay-subculture term (hairy, broad, hypermasculine men) I read this as ‘women having sex with gay men’. It took me a few reads to grasp!

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