Review – Soul Bound to a Dragon

Kurtis Eckstein‘s books have been recommended to me a number of times, usually because of his series “Immortal Supers” (which starts with The Daily Struggles of an Immortal for those interested.) So when I saw he had written a book about a catgirl AND a dragon, and they were both in the same book together, I had to jump on it like it was a grasshopper, and I was a cat. Not gonna lie, if we’re stretching this simile, or this metaphor (on the one hand, we’re discussing two things in an interesting way; on the other hand, I don’t think I’m really a cat) I’d knock this book so far off the ledge of whatever it was left on it’d shatter. Ho boy, I have opinions on this book, and it may have tainted if or how I read other stories by the author.

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The setup appears kind of straightforward. Riella is a half-catgirl, half-person, and she grew up in a village of elves where nobody liked her because she was so pretty, but also a cat, so lusting after her would be zoophilia and the elves (mostly) aren’t about that. She’s protected by a figure she knows as her godmother, who ensures she gets training in the martial arts, and also isn’t completely feed to the elves’ disdain for anything that isn’t elvish. On her 18th birthday, it’s time for her to get the fun times out of the village, so off she goes.

Her godmother gives her a magical summoning crystal, which she uses after a nasty fight against some other fur-people who are mysteriously hunting her, and she summons… A PERSON! Not a dragon. But spoilers – he’s a half-dragon named Eli, who can use three different types of magic and also has super chiseled abs and he’s a little annoyed he was summoned out of nowhere and interrupting his hunting but he didn’t have anything better going on so he decided to follow her. He’ll fall in love with the main character at some point, which confuses the heck out of her because she’s not that pretty, she’s not worth anything, just why would anyone love her?

The book is, perhaps strangely, written in a style less like teenage romances targeted at women and more like an exceptionally stereotypical take on a woman by someone who had only read about them in teenage romance novels. I wasn’t really a fan. This dropped my enjoyment of the story to something of a middling desire to finish the book so I could move on to the next, but I trekked through.

Along the way, the main character and her dragon mate find themselves caught up in a world where slavery is legal, not everyone is what they seem to be, and magic can be infused with technology to create “Magitek.” There was some promise there, and while some of the choices made by characters didn’t make the most sense I had no problem rolling with it. Riella teams up with a family that runs a fur-abolitionist operation under the guise of legit traders who on occasion deal with actual fur slavery, and along the way make fast friends with a former slave who turns out to be THE BEST ICE MAGE IN OVER A CENTURY. BUT SHE DIDN’T KNOW GUYS. SO AMAZING. But not that amazing, because what if Eli has feelings for her, a girl who is actually cute, and can give Eli anything he wants! But he doesn’t want her. And she also doesn’t want him. She just wants good friends. ELI AND REI 4 LYFE!

I struggled to decide if this book was trying to be a high fantasy story of coming to terms with one’s past that happened to have romance tropes in it, or if it was just a Harlequin-esque romance novel set in a high fantasy setting. Those struggles were thrown to the ground at around the 62% mark when the Goddess/Demon/Being trapped inside Riella hijacks Riella’s body in an attempt to get Riella raped and then killed.

I don’t feel dark topics are off the table of discussion, at all. I also don’t think the “solution” to such an event is “Welp, I guess we’ll have to handcuff you to the main male lead so you can’t do that again, lol!”

I never did wash the taste of that scene and it’s handling out of my mouth, even as things picked up with the recruitment of a fourth potential party member/ harem member (I don’t even know what genre this book is going for anymore) and the realization that there are some truly heinous influences in this world, between a disease ravaging the poor and the true nature of heinous “it’s okay they’re not people” slave trade. There is a lot that could be explored here, and a very small part of me is curious where the story might go.

But the story can go on without me, I feel like I did my due diligence in just finishing the damn thing.

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