Dragon In The Blood (The Vale Of Stars #2) by Juliette Cross
Purchase link: Amazon
Purchase link: Amazon
I have been looking forward to this story for a long time not because it was Conn and Valla's story but because well, it's another Juliette Cross book and I have a love-hate relationship with Juliette's books. I still haven't forgiven her for The Deepest Well (5 stars BTW!) and her writing holds my heart.
This story is very much an action adventure. Very in-keeping with Conn and Valla's characters. With Con's charm and Valla's fighter heart, this story sets the right tone to balance their personalities as they journey both literally through Aria and emotionally through to their happy ending. Juliette has the ability to set the tone of her stories according to the emotional make up of her main characters and with this skill brings the ability for the reader to truly connect with the characters. This is exactly what happened with Dragon in the Blood.
With Dragon in the Blood, we start where Waking the Dragon leaves off. The Morgon Guard are looking to bring down the Blood King. Valla gets sent on a mission to gather information in Aria with Bowen and Conn.
Conn is a right charmer. He's witty, smooth and has a way with words and women. He's also madly in love with Valla, only she's too caught up in her own stubbornness to realise it. I liked Conn a lot. He's dominating and protective without being controlling. He respects Valla a great deal and he does nothing to subvert her strength. In fact, her skills and her strength are something he admires a great deal about her. But seriously, a man can only take so much rejection and he's got some of his own insecurities to deal with. I really felt for poor Conn. In fact, I thought Juliette was rather mean to put him through the wringer like she did with Valla. For the better part of the book I'm hoping Valla would come to her senses.
Valla is a very strong woman. In fact, I think she's too strong. She's so skilled, so strong, so capable and so incredibly independent that she has no idea what it's like to love someone, to be a partner and an equal to another for fear of being suppressed. She doesn't understand the basic dynamics of a relationship enough to realise when you find the right man, you can submit without being weak, you can have a partner without losing your independence. She spends too much time living in fear and rejecting Conn for those reasons. I'm very neutral about Valla. I didn't dislike her but I didn't bond with her either. Mostly, I wanted to shake some sense into her. Conn put it very aptly when he said to her:
"Being alone does not make you stronger, Valla. Or more independent. I just means you're alone."
It takes the intervention of outsiders for Valla to see reason and to admit her own heart. She denies it to the very end. This bothers me because when she does decide to commit, it's very fast and a little too easy . I think she still has a lot of maturing to do emotionally and I really wanted her to work at it more. I felt she needed to redeem herself after the way she treated Conn.
The Vale of Stars series is shaping up to be rather epic, in my opinion. There are hints of a greater story arc we don't know about and you can tell Juliette is building towards something big. There's definitely a bigger picture we are not seeing which will be revealed with each book that is released. I sense echoes of the kind of overarching story arc you see in series like Nalini Singh's Psy-Changelings, J R Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, or Elaine Levine's Red Team. There's something bigger than just the hero and heroine finding their happy ending going on. There's a broader world Juliette is building we haven't fully explored as she reveals different aspects of Morgon-kind to us with each book. I can't wait to see what develops.
This story also has some very interesting secondary characters, all of whom I'd like stories for - Bowen and Bastien, in particular. I wonder if it's possible to put in a request?
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the writing, even if I spent the better part of the book being aggravated with Valla. :-p
Can't wait for the next book in the series and finding out what happens next because ... the epilogue ... oh man, the epilogue. You gotta read it. But if you haven't read Waking the Dragon, you need to read that first.
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