Titles: Luckless and Dauntless
Series: Luckless: Books One and Two
Author: Cari Z
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 80 Pages/130 Pages
Category: Dark Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Cari Z has built such a fantastic world in the Luckless series, full of imagination and danger and, for better or for worse, people being people. If you love when dragons and high fantasy come together in a brave and sometimes frightening new world, now might be a good time to catch up on this series before book three releases.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurbs: Luckless: Evan Luck is a dragon rider with no dragon. Five years ago, his dragon gave her life defending the monster-ridden remnants of Marble, and ever since, his ability to connect empathically to another dragon had been as broken as his heart. Now he spends his days dodging his disappointed mayor, crafting arrows, fighting off the not-as-legendary-as-they-should-be beasts that’ve overrun America, and just trying to get by in the city of Forge.
But when he meets newcomer Lee Caldwell, Evan thinks his lonely luck might be changing. Lee is the only person in the city who doesn’t blame Evan for his dragon’s death, and he welcomes Evan into his own little family. There’s more to Lee than meets the eye, though, and between his refusal to talk about himself, pressure from the mayor to split them up, and a monster attacking the city’s foundations, Evan isn’t sure he’ll live long enough to learn the truth. But not learning the truth will almost certainly be fatal, both to Evan and Lee’s budding relationship, and to the entire city.
Dauntless: Evan Luck is a dragon rider who, after years of thinking he’d never bond with another one, now has a dragon again. His empathic connection with the powerful silver dragon Ladon, known in his human form as Lee Caldwell, has made them the most valuable defenders of the city of Forge against monstrous invaders. The fact that they love each other and dote on Lee’s ten-year-old son, Jason? Those are blessings Evan never saw coming. He knows life is good…even as he realizes that the world is becoming more dangerous by the day.
With monsters leaving the mountains of the Front Range to roam the plains for food and the influx of refugees to Forge increasing by the day, Evan has his hands more than full defending the city and training new recruits to fight. When Jason, desperate to bond with a dragon of his own but continually refused by the dragons of Forge, begins to lose control of himself, Evan and Lee make plans to do the unthinkable: leave Forge to fend for itself and take their son to Chicago, the nearest human and dragon stronghold to their own city.
But Chicago has its own terrors to deal with, and their last hope for Jason’s future might be lost before they can save it.
Review: “How did humans anywhere manage to thrive in a land filled with monsters who considered them nothing but food?”
Exploring the dystopian alternate reality version of what we know as the US, but is very much no longer familiar, author Cari Z introduces monsters of all shapes and sizes and sorts to this fantasy series. In what was once known as Denver, a community of people has grown into the place now known as Forge, a walled city that faces the daily challenge of fending off the creatures that crossed the rift between dimensions and unleashed an apocalypse. Those monsters seem to be flooding the landscape, though, their attacks more frequent and their numbers swelling despite the rift being closed for nearly a century. It’s thanks to the dragons and their riders who patrol from above that they are able to fend off these aggressive creatures. But not without grave danger to life and limb, and never without losses.
Evan Luck was once a dragon rider, a hero, and understanding the bond between dragon and rider is key to understanding why Evan is now a virtual outcast amongst the people of Forge. He migrated there after his hometown of Marble was decimated, and he is scorned and ridiculed and mocked by the people—they call him Evan Luckless—because his dragon, Juree, died while saving Evan’s life during a battle. To lose a dragon is a rider’s greatest sin, and Evan hasn’t established an empathic bond with another since, something that hits a dragonless rider like a physical blow. Now Evan spends his days crafting arrows and teaching archery and fighting off menacing hordes from atop the walls of the city rather than soaring on the back of a dragon, all while enduring the prejudice of others. Then he meets Lee Caldwell, and Evan’s life changes, almost overnight, dramatically, and for the better. Not only did Evan find his dragon in Lee, a rare human/dragon shifter, but Evan found love and a family with Lee and his young son Jason in the process.
Cari Z has built such a fantastic world in the Luckless series, full of imagination and danger and, for better or for worse, people being people. The times may have changed, and the people have met them to the best of their abilities, but human nature still rules. The mayor of Forge is particularly unpalatable, and he lives to control and manipulate both Evan and Lee. Or, he tries. As the most powerful dragon in Forge’s retinue, and Evan its most formidable rider, they have some leverage that they don’t hesitate to use. Their partnership doesn’t solely rest on their dragon/rider connection, though. That exists in their love for their son and their commitment to do whatever it takes to make sure Jason finds the dragon he is destined to bond with. The challenge rests in the fact that time is running out on Jason, and the selection of dragons in Forge is limited.
Jason’s storyline serves as the catalyst for some of the action and danger in Dauntless, especially in a pivotal scene that the author delivers beautifully, and to the extent that Evan and Lee are willing to risk life and limb to fly with Jason to Chicago if that’s what it takes to find his destined dragon. But the overarching threat of violence and bloodshed remains the swelling hordes of killer creatures that are not only attacking but seem to be pursuing and hunting anyone or anything caught outside the walls of the city. That includes a band of people coming to Forge from Cheyenne because their own city has been overrun.
Not even a post-Armageddon world filled with dragons and bloodthirsty beasts can overshadow the romance in this high fantasy series, however. The love between Evan and Lee is so present in every interaction and so evident in every moment they spend with, and even without, each other. Cari Z doesn’t lean into their bond as the only reason they love each other, but it’s also clear that bond is an integral piece in their connection. When they come to harm, which is almost inevitable in the world they inhabit, the fear and the pain and the worry for each other is exposed for the reader to feel. And now, they’re about to embark on a journey for answers with no guarantees of success.
I’m not sure when the next book in the series is coming, but if you love when dragons and high fantasy come together in a brave and sometimes frightening new world, now might be a good time to catch up on this series before book three releases.
You can buy Luckless and Dauntless here:
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