Review: Beneath the Scales

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Reasons for Inclusion: Gay romance (but subtle)

Publisher’s Summary: Loyalty and truth will be redefined as a young orphan undertakes a quest that will change his life.

Martus is doing all he can to help his magically gifted sister, Elsaben, living with the frustration that it’s never enough. They’re living hand to mouth on what he can steal, and under the table jobs aren’t enough for Martus to fund the training Elsaben needs. He’s desperate to find a way to help her, but he’s getting a reputation as a troublemaker, which will only endanger what meager living he’s already scratching for.

His life changes drastically in the course of a single day when a dragon attacks their village, leaves it in flames, and then carries Elsaben away. Knowing there is nothing else for him to do, Martus swears to rescue her and avenge their home, knowing he’ll either return triumphant… or die.

What he finds in the mountains challenges his perceptions and prejudices, leading him discover that he may have a chance at a better life, including a friend of the likes he never expected. This adventure could change his worldview—including the beliefs he’s always accepted as the norm.

My Review:

(3/5 stars)

Martus is an orphan boy who hates the world. He bargains and cheats his way through life, trying to support himself and his little sister. He hates the rich people who seem to get everything they want, hates the freak of chance that led to his parents’ death, and most especially hates the dragon who kidnapped his sister.

When he goes to hunt down the dragon, he finds himself proven wrong. Hal can’t control what he does when he transforms into a monster. But even as Martus grows closer to him, the plans he made come back to hurt them both.

The idea for the story is intriguing: a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, and a lot of good messages against thoughtless hate and the damage it can do.

On the other hand, Martus’s presumably “posh” dialogue felt stilted and fake. His attitude towards dragons is challenged, but his hate of everybody else isn’t.

His emotions were a lot more realistic, and it really struck at the heart when he realized how wrong his attitudes were.

The ending was really sweet (and adorably domestic), but I felt it was missing something. It doesn’t feel like there’s much hope that the world is ever going to accept dragons, even though they can be good people just like anybody else.

(ARC received through Netgalley)

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