Review: Dragonshadow by Elle Katharine White
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Heartstone
Publisher: Paperback: Harper Voyager | Audiobook: HarperAudio (November 20, 2018)
Length: Paperback: 352 pages | Audiobook: 11 hrs and 4 mins
Narrator: Billie Fulford-Brown
When I first learned of Dragonshadow, I admit I was taken a bit by surprise. I honestly hadn’t expected a sequel to Heartstone, mainly because the first book did such a good job of being a faithful retelling of Pride and Prejudice, albeit set in a high fantasy setting. Things ended well for our protagonists Aliza Bentaine and Alastair Daired, and I thought that was the end of that.
But apparently, the author had more planned for her characters, and I suppose in this world full of magic and extraordinary monsters, I should have anticipated the possibility of more stories. Dragonshadow picks up not long after the end of Heartstone, which saw the dragonriders prevail over the monstrous forces at the Battle of North Fields. Aliza and Alastair are now married, enjoying the final few days of their honeymoon when an unexpected visit from a messenger arriving from the Castle Selwyn forces them to return home early. It appears that an unknown monster has been terrorizing the rural countryside, killing other preternatural creatures for their precious hearts. But now a young serving girl has gone missing, and everyone fears that the monster must have taken her too.
Reminded of the way her own little sister had been attacked and killed by a wild gryphon, Aliza’s heart immediately goes out to the people of Castle Selwyn, and she convinces Alastair to take the contract. Not content to remain at home, however, she also persuades him to let her come along. The journey will be long and arduous, taking them through dangerous territory infested with monsters, but Aliza knows in her heart this is something she must do, or else she will forever be left behind and shut out of the most important part of her husband’s life.
As unexpected as this sequel was, I am happy that we got it. After the first book, I think many readers, myself included, were keen to know more about this world beyond the Jane Austen elements. I wouldn’t say the story was one of Heartstone’s strong points, mainly because Elle Katharine White was working under so many constraints in order to follow the original plot of Pride and Prejudice so closely, though she more than made up for it with her incredible world-building. Hence, the more I thought about it, Dragonshadow seemed like the perfect opportunity for the author to further spread her wings and explore her characters and develop her storytelling more fully.
This moment, I’m pleased to say, was not wasted. With retellings you always run the risk of readers having preconceived notions of how your characters should think and act, using their familiarity with the original work as a template. However, Elle Katharine White immediately leapt to the task of making these characters her own. The attention is shifted to more serious matters, now that the honeymoon period is literally over. Every marriage comes with its own unique problems, and Aliza is trying to figure out her new role as a dragonrider’s wife, knowing she has certain traditions to uphold. However, she also has her own hopes and dreams for the future and is reluctant to let Alastair shoulder all his responsibilities without her, a thread of conflict that runs though much of this book. That said, their love for each other remains unshakeable, and romance still plays a prominent role in this book, only now it feels even deeper and more meaningful.
I was also glad to see this sequel expand the world that so enchanted me in Heartstone. There was much less focus on dragons and their lore in this one, sad to say, but this also gave the author a chance to show off other aspects of the setting, because there is so much more to this series. The story is a mix of mystery and drama, as Aliza and Alastair come in contact with all sorts of amazing fantastical creatures in their quest to discover who or what it is responsible for all the killings, and why the two of them might have become targets themselves. White puts our couple through plenty of challenges and ordeals, both physical and emotional. It’s heartbreaking, but also rewarding in the end to watch the characters support and pull each other through hard times.
If you liked Heartstone, I would highly recommend picking up Dragonshadow, especially if you enjoyed the general concept and wanted to see more. With this sequel, I felt the series has come into its own, moving beyond any restrictions a retelling would have placed on characters and plot. I felt that Elle Katharine White took full advantage of her new freedom to deeply explore Aliza and Alastair’s relationship, and fans of fantasy adventure and romance should find plenty to sink their teeth into with this one.
Audiobook Review: I was fortunate enough to also receive a listening copy of Dragonshadow in audio, which I enjoyed just as much as the print version. I wasn’t familiar with Billie Fulford-Brown as a narrator, though she sounded very familiar and had a distinct elegance to her voice that I felt was perfectly suited for Aliza. She did a wonderful job and brought an extra layer of dynamism to the experience.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Heartstone (Book 1)