Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Eater of Dreams
SERIES: Sacred Guardian #2
AUTHOR: J.A. Jaken
PUBLISHER: White Owl Publishing
RELEASE DATE: April 23, 2017
Kaori Sansa has uncovered the truth about Shinja, the Sacred Guardian of Kazure, but the country he is sworn to protect is far from secure. War presses hard from the east, and unrest from within Kazure’s borders threatens to undermine what little control he has managed to gain over his subjects. Furthermore, there are those who question his choice in pursuing a relationship with Hunter–quite possibly even those who are closest to him, and whom he has most come to depend upon. Will he find a way to sort through the miasma of lies, violence, and political entanglements that surround him in order to save the country he loves, yet somehow remain true to his own heart?
Kaori might be High King now, but that doesn’t mean that all is well in the kingdom of Kazure. With so many lords still unsure about their new, and mostly untried, king, Kaori sets out to tour the holdings of his border lords, hoping a show of support will help strengthen their trust in him. But with a war with a neighboring country kicking off, and mistrust all around him, Kaori and his lover–and protector–Hunter are going to face even greater threats than before. Also: dragons. There might be dragons. Very angry dragons.
I was tremendously glad to see that Through the Last Door had gotten a sequel. I remember being pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the first book in this Sacred Guardian series, and was looking forward to seeing what more the author could do with these characters.
And for the most part, I enjoyed myself while reading Eater of Dreams. There was some interesting new characters in this story, and seeing Hunter and Kaori deepen their relationship was a huge check in the plus column. Also I must say that I absolutely adored the dragons that appear in this book. They are not really your normal fantasy-dragon fair, but I loved that they had feathers and in my mind came across as some type of missing link between the dinosaurs and birds. It was a really cool take on a creature that could have easily just been another normal, everyday, dragon and probably been just fine…but by changing things up, it really held my attention and made me want to know more about them. So kudos for that.
Plot-wise, it was kinda a retread of the conflict in book one: Kaori struggles to figure out how to be a good king while a secret power tries to take that power for themselves. Which, yeah, I was kind expecting. Especially since this book happens right on the heals of book one. Kaori hasn’t had a lot of time to win people over or shore up his support base, so it was inevitable that people were going to try and take jabs at him. I did like that there was the outside conflict of war with another country causing trouble as well, though. Having those outside players added a hint of The Unknown, and probably set up a good bit of what will probably be the conflict in book three. There were however a few good plot twists that I totally didn’t see coming and those did a lot to really hold my attention as the climax started to build. So even though I could predict a lot of what was being set up for the climax, not everything was certain, and that was good.
However there were two major stumbling blocks to this book, that kept the rating teetering on the 3.5/4 star ledge.
First…there is only a minimal amount of character growth going on with Kaori. He is a great character and I loved him in book one…but come book two I needed a bit more to happen with him. He kinda ended up in the same place at the end of this book that he was in at the beginning: recklessly putting his life in danger to protect his friends. While I’m sure that makes him a good friend/human being, it is not the most admirable trait for a king to have. And I know the author knows that because it was brought to Kaori’s attention not once, but multiple times in story. But he keeps doing it. Over and over…and I kept saying, “just wait a bit, he’ll get it, just wait…” But he really doesn’t and it made all the frustration I went through while reading the story come back tenfold. I kinda needed him to have the realization that as High King his life is more important than his friends. It may suck if those around him get hurt or killed, but it will not be the inciting action of a civil war. He never really got to that place, and I needed him to.
Secondly, there is a thing that happens near the end of the book. It is actually one of the really great twists so I’m not gonna spoil it. But, let’s just say that someone does something, and while I love that it totally caught me off-guard, the resolution to that particular sub-plot was near-maddening. And I think it ties back into this whole Kaori is a great guy, but a kinda sucky King thing. Kaori, I can see forgiving and forgetting, but the High King…man, I just couldn’t get behind what happened. I needed there to be some kind of consequence to the actions taken, and instead it kinda came off as after-school special. Look, I was never wanting Game of Thrones-like fantasy out of these books (no the least because I can’t stand those shows/books), but the whole “let’s wrap this up with everyone forgiving everyone and we’ll all be super great friends now” ending didn’t work for me at all.
I just…I don’t know. I guess I expected a lot more character-arc movement than I got out of this book. And the lack there of, made what was an otherwise really entertaining story a bit frustrating. I still like it, and I still really do recommend this series…but instead of ending this book salivating for the next chapter in Kaori’s life, I was kinda glad to get away from him for a bit. It doesn’t mean I won’t pick up any further book in this series, it just means I might have to readjust my expectations a bit before I do.