Balanced on the Blade’s Edge is another book that’s been sitting on my TBR for some time, rec’ed to me (somewhere – I admit to not remembering at this point) in a request for adult Fantasy Romance. It’s the first book in Lindsay Buroker’s Dragon Blood series, which she admits on her website is far more of a foray into Romance for her than her other novels. That being said, this is not a Romance series – it is most definitely a Fantasy series in which there is a Romance in the first book, a Romance in the second book, and then – based on Goodreads blurbs, reviews, discussions with friends – falls squarely back into Fantasy, albeit with some romantic elements between the couples stretched out throughout the remainder of the series.
This review was originally written as part of a personal project to complete an all Fantasy Romance card for r/fantasy’s 2022 Book Bingo. You can read an introduction to my project here. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 24/03/2014
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
For me, I think the best word to describe my impression of this book is “thin” – I found the world-building thin, the character development thin, the relationship development thin, and the plot thin. To be fair, this is a short book, but honestly, I think I would have found it a more compelling read had it been twice as long and all these crucial elements fleshed out in greater detail. I wanted to like Sardelle, I really did, but she just fell so flat for me, because I didn’t have enough backstory or insight into her character to really care. Ridge was a little better, the consummate flyboy, but still, there wasn’t enough depth for me to feel connected to him or invested in his success. As always, I did love that the FMC and MMC were older – Ridge is over 40 and Sardelle in her mid-30s – yay for older protags!
Honestly, perhaps the most compelling character and dynamic in the book was Jaxi – Sardelle’s soulblade. She is the soul of a sorceress bound to a sword and bonded with her wielder Sardelle, giving Sardelle even more power. Their banter was entertaining, and it reminded me a little of the banter between the FMC and the computer in Johanna Lindsay’s Warrior’s Woman. Their ongoing joke of giving people rashes to foil them without them realizing it was done by magic was entertaining.
The bones of an interesting world were put in place, but they weren’t explored enough to have me really feel invested. We learn the reason for the series title – Dragon Blood – magic stems from the blood of dragons who are now extinct, but we don’t really understand why or how that works. There is an entire culture that was eliminated and buried under the mountain, but again, there’s a lot of missing information about why and who they were. I can only hope that as the series progresses, more of this world-building is fleshed out. Also, its definitely steampunk – airships and planes – but… that’s about it. I wish she would have leaned into the steampunk aesthetic more.
The plot was also a bit lacking for me. There is a quest to retrieve Jaxi from the mountain, but the plot points surrounding that needed something more. For example, how Ridge ultimately finds out that Sardelle is a sorceress, for me, was anti-climactic. The author had an opportunity here to really develop these two characters and connect them through the reveal of Sardelle as a sorceress, e.g. Sardelle could have confided in him or she could have saved the books from burning in a rash display of magic. Instead, the big secret was simply revealed. I won’t give away the details, because spoilers, but suffice to say it wasn’t satisfying. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only instance of this. The final battle between Sardelle and the opposing sorceror was lackluster. It was brief, lacked detail, and was far too one-sided. I expected more from the “big final battle,” and unfortunately just didn’t get it.
In terms of Romance, this is low heat. There is a single sex scene, and it is not explicit. The second time the couple comes together it’s fade-to-black. I do, however, LOVE a forced proximity scene, and that’s what leads to the first sex scene – definite bonus points for that trope! Ridge is not an Alpha at all, so this book will appeal to fans of a Cinnamon Roll (and also cocky flyboys!)
Despite my words about the various thin elements of the book, the writing is solid. The prose flows nicely and never once pulled me out of the story.
I won’t read on in this series, not because anything in particular put me off, but because nothing in particular hooked me such that I felt invested in the world and compelled to read the next book. It was a quick, easy read, and I’d recommend it to someone looking for a little light fantasy – a palate cleanser – that has a low-steam romance in a steampunk world.