I read and loved this so well I jumped at the opportunity to give everyone a chance to win (scroll to the bottom for the giveaway link) copies of this.
Kachka Shestakova, formerly of the Black Bear Riders of the Midnight Mountains of Despair in the Far Reaches of the Steppes of the Outerplains, gazed blindly over the beautiful lands she’d been living in for near on six months now. Lots of grass and trees and fresh water lakes. Ample food supplies and happy people ruled by a benevolent ruler.
Horse gods of Ramsfor! It was like hell on earth!
And Kachka had no one to blame but herself. She’d given up her painful, harsh life as a Daughter of the Steppes when she’d saved her sister from their mother. It was still a decision she’d make again if she had to, but she’d never thought that her life would end like this. She’d assumed that their mother would have tracked them down and killed them both. Kachka had been wrong. Her mother never had the chance because she’d come face to face with Annwyl the Bloody, Queen of the Southlands.
The royal had killed Glebovicha Shestakova, cut off her head, and ripped the eyes from the skull. All in front of the Anne Atli, leader of the Outerplains Tribes. It had been a bold move on the queen’s part. Or, as those closest to the queen had said more than once, “a completely insane move.” Kachka didn’t know. She didn’t talk to the queen. Or really anyone unless she absolutely had to.
All of Garbhán Isle was littered with dragons in human form. She couldn’t tell one from another without her sister’s help. Kachka didn’t hate the dragons. She just didn’t understand why a human would mate with one as they would a man. True, men were mostly useless, but they served their purpose: trash removal, child rearing, and breeding.
Although in the past few decades, the breeding part had changed where dragons and humans were concerned. The queen herself had a set of twins who were half human and half dragon. And it was because of them—and the other offspring that came after—that the humans’ gods had turned on their worshippers. Leaving them to fight the followers of Chramnesind by themselves.
It was shaping up to be quite the long-lasting war from what Kachka could tell. The Southlanders and the inhabitants of the Quintilian Sovereigns Empire were unwilling to give up their multitude of gods. And those who did choose to follow Chramnesind were unwilling to let the others worship anyone else. Armies were being built. Battle plans arranged.
And Kachka wasn’t involved in any of it.
That didn’t really surprise her, though. She wasn’t of these lands. She was a Rider, and her people’s fighting style and reasons for fighting were vastly different. The Anne Atli and the Daughters of the Steppes did have an alliance with Queen Annwyl and the Southlanders, but it was less about fighting by the Southlanders side and more about not stopping the Southlanders and their other allies from traipsing through Outerplains territory when necessary.
What dug into Kachka’s soul more than anything, though, was that before her sister had returned home with that request to speak to the Anne Atli—the title given to all their leaders since the first Anne Atli wrestled power away from the useless men—on Queen Annwyl’s behalf, Kachka\ had been moving up through the ranks at a nice, steady pace. She would never have been the Anne Atli, but she could have led her own troops into battle. Perhaps sat in on the all-tribes meetings when large decisions were made.
In other words . . . she’d have had a purpose.
Kachka needed a purpose. She needed a goal. She needed to make a name for herself. Their mother had never liked Kachka or her sister, but Kachka’s skill and willingness to throw herself into battle couldn’t be denied.
Where did that leave her here?
Of course, she could join the Queen’s Army, but marching in formation and taking orders from mostly men . . . no.
She was a Daughter of the Steppes, not some sheep blinded to the decadent life offered in these Southland territories.
Which left Kachka . . . where? Exactly?
“Um . . . excuse me? My lady?”
Kachka cringed at the ridiculous moniker these Southlanders insisted on using. She’d gotten tired of correcting them, so she let out a breath and snapped, “What?”
“Margo”—the leader of the kitchen staff—“was wondering if you could perhaps, if you’re not too busy, round up some meat for us? Some of the Cadwaladrs will be attending dinner tonight and the butchers don’t have enough to feed them all. You know what hearty eaters dragons are. So she was just—”
As the sheep went on—begging—and Kachka stared her in the face, she raised her bow, an arrow already nocked and ready, and shot the first thing she saw from the corner of her eye. The bison cried out once before dropping to its knees and bleeding out from the wound on its neck.
“Anything else?” Kachka asked.
The woman was pale now, her head shaking in answer.
Disgusted—hunting was not a challenge for a Daughter of the Steppes; it was more like breathing—Kachka turned away and started walking.
“Kachka?” She stopped and looked over her shoulder to see her sister.
“Fuck,” Kachka muttered as her sister walked over to her.
“You can’t be nice?” Elina asked in their native tongue.
Kachka’s sister wore a bright purple eye patch where her left eye should be. It had been the last thing their mother had taken from Elina. Over time, she’d grown accustomed to the loss, her skills at using her bow improving day after day. But the eye patches . . . this ridiculous purple one could have only come from that idiotic She-dragon, Keita. Her obsession with what Elina wore bordered on the disturbing. Wasn’t it bad enough the Shestakova sisters had already become decadent and lazy? Must they also become pathetic as well?
“I was nice,” Kachka replied, but when Elina pursed her lips, Kachka threw up her hands. “What more do you want from me, sister?”
“How about not terrifying the staff?”
“You mean the sheep?”
“And stop calling them that! You know they hate it!”
Seriously, how can you not love these women? I adore and re-read the entire series often.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/10/feel-burn-dragon-kin-8-by-ga-aiken.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23453137-feel-the-burn
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/62647-dragon-kin
Originally from Long Island, New York Times bestselling author G.A. Aiken has resigned herself to West Coast living, which involves healthy food, mostly sunny days, and lots of guys not wearing shirts when they really should be. Writing as Shelly Laurenston, she is also the creator of the wickedly funny Pride series for Brava. For more info about G.A. Aiken’s dangerously and arrogantly sexy dragons, go to www.gaaiken.com.