Review: Battle Bond by Lindsay Buroker

Review: Battle Bond by Lindsay BurokerBattle Bond (Death Before Dragons #2) by Lindsay Buroker
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Death Before Dragons #2
Pages: 316
Published by Lindsay Buroker on March 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

If you think having one dragon around messes up your life, imagine what it’s like when a second one shows up.

I’m Val Thorvald, assassin of magical bad guys and tenuous ally to the dragon lord Zav.

He still calls me a mongrel and thinks I’m a criminal, but he healed my wounds after we fought those dark elves together. That’s progress, right? Maybe one day, he’ll deign to use my name.

Not that this is my primary concern. I’m busy with a new assignment. Nin, the awesome lady who makes my magical weapons, has a werewolf problem. Specifically, sleazy loser werewolf competitors who want to drive her out of business. Or worse.

Normally, a couple of werewolves wouldn’t be a big deal, but these ones have powerful allies. And then there’s that new dragon.

It turns out he’s one of Zav’s enemies, and he wants to use me against him.

I don’t know why he’s picking on me—it’s not like I mean something to Zav—but somehow I’ve gotten stuck in the middle of dragon politics. If you think that sounds like a nightmare, you’re right.

If I can’t figure out a way to help my friend with the werewolves while keeping these dragons from tearing me apart, we’re both going to end up flatter than the deck chairs when Zav lands on the roof of my apartment building.

My Review:

After falling into the first book in this series, Sinister Magic, earlier this month, I was on pins and needles waiting for Val’s second outing to arrive on my ereader. And Battle Bond generally did not disappoint.

Even if I haven’t figured out the title yet. I’m saying that because I just realized what the “sinister magic” of the first title referred to. I wasn’t having much luck with understanding the series title either, until I read a bit of background posted on the author’s site and she explained it was all about Val’s perspective, that she would prefer to be dead rather than become a dragon’s pawn or thrall.

Not that she doesn’t keep ending up in just that position – but she gets better. Also her own personal dragon, while still copping a smug and superior attitude that should get him a slap upside the head, is, not exactly mellowing, but becoming a bit less unbearable.

Particularly in comparison to the dragon that has come to our Earth in order to bait, annoy and try to kill Val’s good frenemy, the dragon Zavryd. A dragon who really doesn’t like it when Val refers to him as Zav.

The story in Battle Bond picks up immediately after the ending of Sinister Magic. Val’s government boss is still recovering from the magical cancer that the dark elves infected her with, and Val is still driving the government loaner Jeep that she requisitioned after Zav threw her old Jeep into the upper branches of a very tall tree.

In this outing, Val’s cases, as is probably going to turn out to be usual for her, intersect with a vengeance. Also with actual vengeance.

A dragon has come to Earth to harass Zav, for reasons that will probably become clear later in the series when we – and Val – know a whole lot more about dragon politics back on Zav’s homeworld.

Meanwhile this dragon is kidnapping children. And hikers. And eventually taking over large but remote government compounds, all as part of a twisted desire to put Zav off his game so that he can be eliminated. Possibly eliminating Val along the way.

But Val also has a case that she is taking pro bono. Her friend and magical weapons supplier Nin is being harassed by a pride of big cat shifters who want to drive her out of business. If they put her in the ground as part of that driving out they really don’t care.

Val, however, cares a LOT. She just has to find a way to convince an entire pride of over a dozen members and growing – also growling, that Val AND Nin are not to be messed with. Possibly by messing with them – permanently. Whether she’s supposed to or not.

Both cases prove to Val that none of the things she thought she wrapped up at the end of the first book are remotely done with her yet. And that she’s going to be ass-deep in dark elves AND dragons for the foreseeable future.

If she has one.

Escape Rating B+: I really, really like Val as a character. She has all kinds of doubts and fears, making her very human in spite of her half-elven parentage. She’s also got some really interesting quirks and a seriously problematic Achilles heel. She’s far, far from perfect, and she’d be the first to admit it.

That she has a therapist who can’t help but remind her of all the ways she’s failing herself just adds to the portrait of the kickass heroine as a flawed human being – whether or not she’s only half-human.

For the most part, Battle Bond is at the same breakneck-pace-with-occasional-pauses as the first book in the series. Val’s world, the mixture of the magical and the mundane that she has to navigate, is complicated by its resemblance to the world we know. Finding out what makes it different among the sameness requires some tricky and time-consuming but pace-slowing worldbuilding. Something that I’m generally for and complain about when I don’t get so I’m happy to see that investment here at the beginning.

At the same time there’s still quite a bit of setup over the first half of the book. But once this one gets going – once all of Val’s ducks have been completely knocked out of alignment and all of her plans have been subjected to Murphy’s Law, the entire thing kicks into very high gear.

I want to say that Val leaps out of the frying pan into the fire, but that’s not strictly true. Val is trying to do the right thing under some very difficult constraints – especially the constraint that the government for the most part refuses to acknowledge that magic exists and therefore doesn’t have much of an arsenal for dealing with or recovering from it. And that her mandate is to eliminate the threat to the human population while the dragon Zav’s mandate is to punish and rehabilitate evildoers from his realm who have come to Earth. It’s more like Val leaps out of the frying pan and the fire just appears – over and over and over.

There is a sense that Val spends a lot of this story as a chew toy being fought over by two dragons who both think of her as a MUCH lesser being but are more than happy to use her for their own ends. And that in spite of her stated desire to die rather than become a dragon’s pawn, she spends a lot of this installment being just that.

She does get better. For the most part. But this book does hint at an eventual romance between Val and Zav, and I’ll admit that so far I’m not there for it. It’s going to take a LOT of this author’s generally excellent worldbuilding and character development to get me there.

But I’ll be back next month for the third book in the series, Tangled Truths, to see just how that turns out!

Review: Sinister Magic by Lindsay Buroker

Review: Sinister Magic by Lindsay BurokerSinister Magic: An Urban Fantasy Dragon Series (Death Before Dragons) by Lindsay Buroker
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Death Before Dragons #1
Pages: 286
Published by Lindsay Buroker on February 28th 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

I’m Val Thorvald, and I’m an assassin.

When magical bad guys hurt people, I take care of them. Permanently.

This doesn’t make me popular with the rest of the magical community—as you can tell from the numerous break-ins and assassination attempts I’ve endured over the years. But thanks to my half-elven blood, a powerful sword named Chopper, and a telepathic tiger with an attitude, I’ve always been able to handle my problems with aplomb. Maybe some cursing and swearing, too, but definitely aplomb.

That changes when my boss is afflicted with a mysterious disease, a government agent starts investigating me, and a godforsaken dragon shows up in the middle of my latest job.

I’ve taken down vampires, zombies, and ogres, but dragons are way, way more powerful. And it doesn’t look like this one is going to like me.

Worse than that, he wants to use his magic to compel me to do his bidding, as if I’m some weak-minded minion.

That’s not going to happen. I’d die before being some dragon’s slave.

But if I can’t figure out a way to avoid him, save my boss, and get rid of the government spook, I’m screwed. Or dead. Or screwed and dead. And that’s never comfortable.

Pick up Sinister Magic today to see if I make it. Even if you don’t care about me, I promise the tiger is cool.

My Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new urban fantasy series, let alone one that I couldn’t wait to dive into. Once upon a time, urban fantasy and its kissing cousin paranormal romance were everywhere, but now, not so much.

Not that there aren’t plenty of existing series that are still going strong, but new ones starting up aren’t nearly as prevalent as they used to be. And probably will be again, these things go in cycles.

But this book looked like catnip to me – and it certainly was. The first book in a new series by a fave author – and what looked to be a fascinating take on our world with a kickass heroine as combination tour guide (for the reader) and bounty hunter (for the bad guys, for select definitions of both bad and definitely guys.)

And dragons. Or rather one dragon. A dragon shifter at that. And one with a whole lot of self-important, superior asshole attitude that just begs our heroine to poke with a sword and a nasty attitude at every conceivable opportunity.

Once you’ve met “Lord” Zavryd, you’ll completely understand the attitude.

Our heroine is Val, a half-elven bounty hunter. She’s actually a government contractor whose job is to go after the weird and nasty. Or at lest the non-human weird an nasty. Working for the government involves dealing with an entirely different kind of nasty, as Val is reminded when her boss ends up hospitalized and under suspicion of a whole raft of criminal activity that she couldn’t possibly have had a hand in.

Val and that dragon cross paths over the not-yet-dead body of a wyvern who snacked on a bunch of kids. Val wants the animal put down with extreme prejudice and as much firepower as she can bring to bear – which is rather a lot.

Zavryd wants to bring the wyvern back to face the Dragon Justice Court. That wyvern has been a very bad creature in more places than just Earth. In the ensuing scuffle, argument and outright battle over exactly who has jurisdiction in this case, the wyvern gets dead, Val’s Jeep gets tossed into the upper reaches of a tree, and Zavryd decides that Val can pay him back by serving as “bait” for all of the miscreants who have fled justice and settled on Earth.

Even though Val’s combination friend, familiar, service animal and bodyguard, the majestic magical tiger Sindari, warns her not to aggravate the dragon, Val can’t help herself in the face of his smug, superior attitude – and face.

Not even when she needs his help – and a bit of his blood – to save a friend.

Escape Rating A-: I had a hell of a good time with Val – and especially Sindari. I know he’d hate my saying he’s just a big pussycat, but he is a very big pussycat. As well as a great friend and companion to Val, a deadly warrior in his own right, and extremely majestic. Sindari would definitely want me to include the majestic bit.

But there were elements of Sinister Magic I wasn’t necessarily expecting, some terrific, some a bit disconcerting.

I had read that it was kind of a big deal that Val wasn’t the usual 20something heroine. She’s 40 and has the emotional scars to prove it. Just not the physical ones. As a half elf, she heals faster and looks and feels much younger than her actual years and has the strength to go with that. So she’s not nearly as much like Marley Jacob from A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark as I would have liked to see.

But Val’s Seattle and Marley’s have a lot in common. Complete with denizens of the weird, wacky and extraterrestrial, including a giant monster in Puget Sound. The difference is that Marley’s monster is a dragon, where Val’s dragon is trying to kill her monster, in her case a kraken.

The urban fantasy world and hero that Val really reminds me of is Kai Gracen. Kai is also half-elven, also finds it blessing and curse in equal measure, is also a bounty hunter, and his world has a similar mixture of the magical, the monstrous and the mundane that Val’s does. So if you like Val you’ll probably like Kai as well.

They both also deal in a similar line of unrepentant snark. The difference is that Kai’s is more self-reflective, where Val’s snarkitude draws directly on contemporary pop culture in ways that bring a smile or a groan to the reader, as well as a huff of disgust from that dragon. He knows she’s backtalking him even when he doesn’t get the context.

As far as the story goes, this one is a wild ride from beginning to end, even though it does have to let up on the frenetic pace when it deals with the worldbuilding and Val’s backstory. In spite of this being an alternate version of the contemporary Pacific Northwest, it still take a fair amount of setup to get everything and everyone up to speed. This is all necessary to get the series off the ground, but something it does feel like it slows things down a bit too much.


That being said, I like Val, and I was easily able to feel for where she was coming from on an emotional level, even though suppressing her emotions is the thing causing all the current stress in Val’s life. I’m not completely on board with Val’s sudden onset of asthma, not that it couldn’t happen, but that it seems psychosomatic – if it doesn’t turn out to be magic-induced – and just seemed to be a way to make her more physically vulnerable without really making her vulnerable.

And then there’s that dragon. At this point, I’m kind of hoping that this is not being set up as an eventual romance. Although if it is the author is going to have to do a ton of heavy lifting to turn Zavryd into a character who could really be Val’s romantic partner. Not that he isn’t tall, dark and sexy when he’s not being a dragon, but because at the moment he sees all non-dragons as vermin to be ignored or eradicated. That’s a hell of a lousy place from which to start a relationship. So if it happens I hope it’s not until a whole lot of water has passed under that particular bridge.

But I’m all in for this series. I like Val and her world, I found her government boss to be a great person, and the government shenanigans provided both comic relief and pathos as the Men in Black turn out to be completely incompetent while Val finds a miracle cure for magically-induced cancer. I want to see how the rest of the world shakes out in this variation of it.

So I’m looking forward to reading Battle Bond the minute it becomes available later this month!