Review: Highland Dragon Master – Isabel Cooper

Review: Highland Dragon Master – Isabel CooperHighland Dragon Master
by Isabel Cooper
Series: Dawn of the Highland Dragon #3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

"The mix of hard-headed realism and fantasy in this novel is enchanting..." -ELOISA JAMES for Barnes and Noble Reviews for Legend of the Highland Dragon

He swore to protect Scotland to his last breath But when terror rules the seas, he'll have to make a choice: Give everything he has for independence, or trust in the dragon who rules his heart.

The war for Scottish independence rages on, but it's only a matter of time before England is victorious. Exhausted and battle-weary, Highland dragon Erik MacAlasdair will face unknown seas to seek the Templar stronghold and claim a power so great it could free his beloved homeland forever.
If only that kind of power didn't come with such a terrible price.

Daughter of a mortal woman and an ancient dragon, Toinette has never forgotten the proud Scot who once stole her young heart-she'll gladly fight at his side. But when dark forces leave them stranded on a cursed island, it will take everything they have to defy their fate...and trust the passion that burns within the heart of every dragon.

Dawn of the Highland Dragon Series:
Highland Dragon Warrior (Book 1)
Highland Dragon Rebel (Book 2)
Highland Dragon Master (Book 3)

What People Are Saying About Isabel Cooper:
"Something magical happens when elements of romance and fantasy combine. Cooper's delicious Highland Dragon Rebel has it all, including a strong heroine, intriguing hero, heated sensuality and thrilling action/adventure." -RT Book Reviews for Highland Dragon Rebel
"Will keep you turning pages until you reach the very end." -Book Riot for Highland Dragon Master
"Smartly written, fast-paced, and brimming over with magic and surprises, this is exactly what readers crave." -RT Book Reviews 4 1/2 Stars, TOP PICK! for Night of the Highland Dragon

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4 stars icon Historical icon paranormal romance icon

While this is the third in the Dawn of the Highland Dragon series, this could be read as a stand-alone.  While there’s some references made to the couples of the previous books, none of it is necessary to enjoy the story.  Mild spoilers for the book below.

Erik, one of the Loch Arach family members (and a dragon), has been sent away from the battle between the Scottish and English to find a treasure supposedly hidden by the Templars.  As it’s apparently located on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, he’ll need a ship to get there.  Luckily, he runs into Toinette (another dragon), who he was fostered with at Loch Arach, and now captain of the ship Hawk.  While they were attracted to each other as teens, nothing more than a kiss happened before Toinette was sent away, and it’s been quite a long time since they’ve seen each other.

This was not at all what I was expecting.  I binge read the first two books in the series before this one, so coming off of Moiread and Madoc’s road-trip-style romance, I initially thought this would be another fun traveling story.  Then things took a surprisingly decided turn sideways, and I realized .  While I wouldn’t call any of Ms. Cooper’s books that I’ve read so far light reading – they usually have multiple layers, and have several philosophical and religious layers – this on was heavier than most.  It quickly goes from “OK, this is weird” to “creepy” to “OMG WHY am I reading this at night???”, while at the same time exploring sacrifice, friendship, and understanding the price of both.

“It’s all pride, as far as I’m concerned. Kings and crowns and banners—it’s all pride, it’s all stupid, and none of it’s worth a drop of my men’s blood.”

I admired Toinette.  Unlike the MacAlasdair dragons, who are Scottish nobles, Toinette grew up poor and English, and she’s on her own when she suddenly starts manifesting her dragon powers as a teen.  Somehow, she manages to end up at Loch Arach, where she’s taken in and learns to control her powers.  Even there, though, it’s obvious she’s not one of them, and when she’s eighteen, she leaves to forge her own life.  And she does!  She marries, is widowed, and then inherits the captaincy of the Hawk.  Her crew respects her, and from everything we see of her, she’s a good and prosperous captain.  While Erik owes his loyalty to his MacAlasdair family, Toinette’s family is her crew, and she knows it.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the interactions between Erik, Toinette, and her crew, especially Marcus, her second in command.  During a storm, Erik and Toinette are forced to reveal their dragon selves in order to save the ship and its crew, so threaded along with the rest of the plot is the crews’ reactions to, well, their captain turning into a giant fire-breathing monster.  Each of the crew are distinct and well-characterized, and each have their own reactions to the dragons and being stranded on the island.

And as a note, since I was not expecting this – this book reads as straight horror at times.  It’s more of an existential horror rather than blood and guts-type, though there’s a bit of that, but this is a book I would most definitely NOT recommend reading before bed!  While I’m only an occasional horror reader, I thought the quality of it was well-done, and the explanation behind it was fascinating, as well as keeping with the series’ fourteenth-century take on religion.

Overall, while this was not at all what I was expecting, this was excellent.  Recommended for anyone looking for an exciting paranormal romance with a large dose of horror!

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