Today I bring you my book review of SACRIFICE by Vicky Walklate, a dragon shifter fantasy romance. SACRIFICE placed 15th in the final round of the 2022 Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA).
BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.
Dragon gods rule the realm, demons lurk in the shadows, and a sorcerer hides a dangerous secret. A war is brewing in Jothesia, and the gods have no idea.
Being selected as human sacrifice to the immortal dragon shifters is supposedly an honor, but rebellious Libby doesn’t see it that way. When the sacrificial ritual goes badly wrong, she finds herself in a reluctant alliance with eldest god Rhetahn. He’s grumpy, cynical, and utterly exasperating …and she can’t get him out of her head.
Rhetahn knows there’s something wrong with this sacrifice, and it’s not just her infuriating stubbornness or the way she makes his jaded heart skip a beat. When terrible misfortune befalls his brothers and renders him powerless, his only choice is to unite with Libby to seek answers.
As they set out on a dangerous quest across the realm, the compelling attraction between them is undeniable, yet doomed. To recover his magic, regain his strength, and prevent the demons from seizing power, Rhetahn needs her blood. He must kill her at the end of their journey, even if it breaks his heart to do so.
But a terrible power lies hidden in Jothesia, one that could destroy everything the gods have built. Libby and Rhetahn’s forbidden relationship may be the realm’s only hope against utter ruin.
Thank you to The Write Reads, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Despite the official blurb stating that there are dragon shifters in SACRIFICE, it didn’t quite click in my head that this is a shifter fantasy romance until I was several chapters deep. I was a little skeptical because monster romance is not a fantasy subgenre I automatically gravitate toward. However, SACRIFICE was a nice entry into this niche category and I enjoyed reading this relatively fast-paced first installment of The Gods of Trivium.
Libby, magically selected to be the sacrifice, is stubborn and opinionated, which I always love in a female main character. She tries to find the calm in the chaos during her preparation for the ritual, but that doesn’t mean anyone should let their guard down. I also liked that she had some instinctual smarts, that is, she knew when to keep information to herself and when to share it. Rhetahn, the oldest dragon god brother, is a well-developed character for a shorter read. However, I didn’t think his characterization was as strong as that of Libby. But I definitely think it’s something that will progress with the series.
While I enjoyed the instantaneous chemistry between Libby and Rhetahn, I felt it developed a little too quickly and conveniently. The slow burn wasn’t quite slow enough (for me). And they didn’t share enough experiences over an extended period of time for the attraction to escalate as quickly as it did. There were a couple of of times where I thought the writing predictably maneuvered them into close proximity. I also felt that not enough inner (or outer) dialogue was devoted to exploring the moral conundrum of falling for one’s captor/future murderer.
Additionally, I was a little turned off by the number of times Rhetahn brought up her virginity. So I gave a little mental cheer when Libby pushed back about it and basically told him to give it a rest. I’m assuming this is a trope in some fantasy romance circles that I just haven’t encountered often. But I suppose it could also be a way of characterizing Rhetahn’s more base instincts as a dragon shifter.
My various puzzlings about the romance aspects aside, I thought the writing was great. The author succinctly, yet clearly described the environments Libby encounters. In fact, I thought the world building was quite unique. There are several different types of shifters (land, water, dragon) as well as demons, dwarfs, and harpies. (Though I’m sure I forgot some of the mythical creatures.) Some readers aren’t fans of journeys as the main event, but I don’t mind this plot device. I liked learning about the various passages through the realm and how the dwarfs built their underground community. I feel like I’ve just scraped the surface of the potential political plot and intrigue to come.
Overall, SACRIFICE is a fast-paced, easy introduction into shifter (monster?) fantasy romance. I didn’t notice any overt political or social commentary woven into the story I feel the need to mention. So consider this fantasy read a nice delve into escapism.
Content warnings: blood, death, battle scenes
Reading format: Kindle e-book
About the Author
Vicky is a romance, fantasy and historical fiction author from Norfolk, UK. Along with Sacrifice, she also published a monster romance novella last year, and her latest book, a Regency mystery with romantic elements, is out now.
When she’s not writing she transforms into a giant bookworm, eagerly devouring books of all kinds, especially romance.