Review: The Last Dragon Princess

I was recently offered an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Last Dragon Princess by Cynthia Payne. It's a good time to read about dragon royalty considering that Netflix is releasing their original animated series The Dragon Prince later this week. The Last Dragon Princess currently has a release date of October 2nd. I think it will have a lot of appeal to people who enjoy dragon lore. It's not exactly written in the format of a fairy tale, but it instead incorporates Greek mythology and a lot of fantasy style world building. I think it would be most enjoyed most by people who liked stories such as The Handmaid's Tale and Game of Thrones. Though not nearly as explicit, the book incorporates similar themes of conquering kingdoms and using women as a tool to continue important lineages.

The Last Dragon Princess takes place in a world of people known as "hisgeii." Those among them who are "shifters" have the ability to transform into dragons at will. Danu, the main character, is a "breeder," meaning that she is the only person can produce more shifters, but she is also the last of her kind. Without her, the hisgeii would lose their ability to turn into dragons, making shifters extinct. Just like any other story involving politics, the shifters are divided into a caste system and judged based on their ranking. Danu is the lowest form of shifter called a spark, so she struggles to earn the respect she deserves as the last breeder, which is normally a renowned position. All of the decisions Danu makes must revolve around the well-being of her people and their future because she represents their last hope. This is not a character-drive story. Danu has little desire to be free and accepts her responsibility with little to no regard of her own selfish desires.

The reason I don't consider this story a fairy tale is that fairy tales about princesses generally contain simple and straightforward romances. The princess always knows exactly who she wants to be with, and the two lovers fight for each other against all odds, usually resulting in a happy marriage. Danu spends most of the story being confused about which of the shifters she wants to give her heart to. Anyone who marries her would become king, so all of the male shifters pursue her regardless of their personal feelings, and she has trouble figuring out which ones genuinely care about her and which ones just want power, causing her to form many misplaced crushes. Even it was obvious to me who she was going to end up, I wouldn't consider this book particularly romantic. There was virtually no buildup to her final decision at the end of the book. Even her choice of who to marry in the first few chapters had absolutely nothing to do with love. It was instead about protecting her people from political corruption by picking the shifter most worthy to be king.

I did not find Danu very easy to relate to, but I don't think that took away from my overall enjoyment of the story. Her selfless willingness to do anything to ensure the future of the hisgeii shifters was admirable, but her flightiness of what she wanted on a personal level made it hard to root for her as a character. The book's plot picked up the most in the final few chapters when it introduced Greek mythology and hinted at the history of how hisgeii gained the ability to transform into dragons. I think Danu would have been a lot more interesting to read about if she knew how to transform into a dragon at the beginning of the story because that was one of the most interesting aspects of her world. It was all right to read about her riding her male companions when they transformed, but it wasn't the same as reading about it would it would be like first-hand, which was only expanded upon briefly at the end.

I think The Last Dragon Princess has the potential to be a beloved tale for the proper audience. As someone who prefers fairy tales and straightforward romance, there were things in it that I had difficulty relating to. Still, it was a very well-written book with a fully fleshed out fantasy world bursting with compelling original dragon mythology. Anyone who is a fan of dragons would love this book. The inclusion of Greek mythology was a clever twist that helped to make an unfamiliar world feel a little more familiar by incorporating stories that most people are already aware of. It's also a great book for people who enjoy reading about political corruption in fantasy worlds. If any of these things sound like they appeal to you, be sure to keep an eye out for its release next month!


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