Friday, March 8, 2013

Red Dragon Five by John R. Phythyon, Jr.

Yesterday, we learned about John R. Phythyon, Jr. Today read an excerpt and my review of Red Dragon Five.


When the top-secret Red Dragon Project is sabotaged and one of its agents disappears, only Wolf Dasher realizes who is really behind it: the sinister terrorist organization, the Sons of Frey. But when the trail leads across the border of Alfar
and into Jifan, Wolf must leave behind his new love, May Honeyflower, and go undercover on a dangerous and unofficial mission with no backup. Deep inside the terrorists' operation, Wolf searches for the missing Red Dragon. And when he disappears, May abandons her post as Captain of Alfar's Elite Guard and goes off on a desperate search for him. Can she find him before the Sons of Frey discover his true identity, and can either of them stop the terrorists from unleashing an apocalypse on Alfar?

Red Dragon Five is the second book in the Wolf Dasher series of fantasy-thriller mashup novels blending magic, super-spies, and politics in an exciting brew of action and adventure. A story of love and family set against a backdrop of betrayal, revenge, and terrorism, Red Dragon Five is a page-turner you won't want to put down. Read it as a stand-alone novel or as a sequel to State of Grace.


I give Red Dragon Five 4 out of 5 stars.

Plots. Betrayal. International intrigue. Magical gadgets, and doom’s day in the waiting. Red Dragon Five has all the elements of a spy thriller and fantasy world thrown together, and mostly it’s a good combination. Wolf Dasher is the James Bond of the fantasy world. Dasher occasionally makes dumb decisions that are a little hard to swallow, but the supporting cast is good, and the villains could come right out of a Bond novel. If you like action thrillers, you will enjoy this book. While it might help to read previous Wolf Dasher novels for back story, I didn’t find it essential to understanding the work.


Wolf finished packing just as May returned from her duty shift. He turned around to see her standing in the bedroom door of their small flat, staring at him with her mouth agape.

“Are you going somewhere?” she said as though she were interrogating a prisoner.

“Yes,” he said. Her glare made him uncomfortable.

“Were you planning on telling me?”

“Of course!” he replied. “I was just waiting for you to finish your shift.”

She continued to stare at him and took two steps into the room. Wolf read a mixture of worry and confusion on her beautiful face.

“What’s going on, Wolf?” she said at last.

Wolf struggled. He wanted to tell her everything, but there were security protocols he was bound to follow. They didn’t work for the same organization or even the same government.

“I have to leave town for awhile,” he said.

“On business?” she said, cocking her head quizzically.

“Not officially,” he replied.

“I thought you were still suspended,” she said, taking another step towards him.

“I am.”

May narrowed her eyes and continued to stare. Wolf could feel himself wilting under her gaze. His heart hurt.
“So, does this mean your ‘unofficial’ business is not a mission?”

“I’m sorry, May,” he said, feeling horrible. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Damn it, Wolf Dasher,” she shouted, “don’t you feed me that security-clearance bullshit! When we are in this apartment together, you are not Shadow Six of Her Majesty’s Shadow Service, and I am not Captain of the Alfari Elite Guard. We are lovers, and you do not get to just leave town mysteriously without telling me what it’s about!”

Wolf stared at her. Her yellow eyes were burning with rage. He was actually a little afraid of her. He’d never seen her like this before.

“May—” he began, but she cut him off.

“Don’t you use my first name if you’re going to lie to me,” she said.

Tears started filling her eyes. It was an honor to be given permission to call an elf by his or her first name. It was only given to lovers, close friends, and family. She clearly thought Wolf was violating the privilege. He didn’t blame her. It felt like he was.

“You don’t get to use my first name if you’re going to hide behind your job and your government,” she said, echoing his thoughts.

Wolf sighed. There was nothing for it. He couldn’t hurt her.

He crossed the room to her and moved to wipe the tears from her eyes. She whipped her head angrily away.
“May,” he said again, “I have a mission. It’s completely unofficial. In fact, if I get caught, the Shadow Service will deny it had any knowledge of what I was doing and claim I was acting on my own.”

She turned back to him. Horror and anger crawled across her face.

“And you were going to leave without telling me this?” she whispered.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re in the business. You know what it’s like. I’m just used to not being able to talk about what I do, and, really, May, this is the first real relationship I’ve ever been in. This sort of thing is all new to me.”

She nodded and looked away for a moment. He couldn’t tell if he’d reached her or not.

“You’re not in a relationship with a human, Wolf,” she said. “I am an elf. We give ourselves wholly to our partners. We do not treat one another as less important than ourselves. I understand you are a government Shadow, but there can be no secrets between us. Not big ones like this. You don’t get to leave on an exceptionally dangerous mission and not tell me why you will be gone or for how long. Even if your government has to deny you if you get caught, I deserve to know you went in the first place.”

Now it was Wolf’s turn to nod. She was right, of course. He couldn’t imagine how he would feel if he came home to find her gone and no one would tell him where or why. He might not be able to tell her many of the details of his mission, but he couldn’t refuse to talk about it.

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Old habits.”

She kissed him. He sighed happily.

“You still have much to learn about elfin women,” she teased.

“In my experience, it doesn’t matter about her being elfin,” he quipped.

“Can you tell me anything?” she said, becoming serious.

“I shouldn’t,” he said, “but I’m going undercover to Allamabad.”

Her eyes widened. Another look of horror darkened her face.

“Wolf, that’s in Jifan!”

“I know,” he said.

“Why are you going there?”

“I think I stumbled onto something pretty big at the Sons of Frey base last week,” he admitted. “An experimental weapon has been stolen, and the information I found last week makes me think the Sons of Frey are involved. All we know is that Starfellow ordered Teargarden back to Allamabad, so that’s where I have to start looking.”

“Wolf,” she said, alarm creeping into her voice, “how is it you plan to go ‘undercover’ in Jifan. You’re human. You won’t be able to get anywhere.”

He smiled. He was pretty pleased with Kinsey’s ring.

“Watch this,” he said, stepping back and slipping it on his finger.

His ears tickled, and, a moment later, May stepped back looking aghast at his transformation from human to elf.

“Eeuw!” she said. “How did you do that?”

“Magic Division gave me a ring that changes my appearance,” he answered. “And I was hoping for better than ‘eeuw.’”

“Take it off,” she snapped. “You look all wrong.”

He laughed and removed the ring. She didn’t look appeased.

“I’ve got a brooch that allows me to speak Elfin as well,” he said. “I’ll be able to fit right in.”

“Just like you fit in as Urland’s ambassador last year?” she scolded.

“Hopefully a little better than that,” he said.

She turned and walked away from him. She was clearly upset. He’d never seen her like this.

“How long will you be gone?” she said, her back to him.

“I don’t know, Sweetie,” he said. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for or what I’ll find.”

She turned on him with an angry look on her face. Tears lit her eyes again. She opened her mouth several times to speak but couldn’t seem to get the right words to come out.

Finally, she stormed across the room to her cabinet of keepsakes. Wolf watched as she opened the door and rifled through the contents.

“Damn!” she said. She turned to him. “Don’t you move from that spot until I get back. I mean it, Wolf, if I come back and you are gone, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

“I won’t leave,” he said, confused.

She turned on her heel and left. Wolf stared after her, unsure what to think.


She returned an hour later carrying a small parcel.

“Take off your shirt,” she ordered.

He stared at her for a minute, unsure how to react. She opened the package and withdrew a small pot of what looked like ink.

“What are you—”

“Just take your off shirt,” she said, still sounding angry. “And sit in the chair.”

He decided it would be better to do as he was told rather than fight her or ask questions. He removed his tunic and then seated himself in the chair by the bed.

She went to her cabinet and withdrew a feather from it. Then she crossed the room to where he sat and knelt in front of him.

“I am not a magician,” she said, dipping the quill in the ink. “But my father taught me this charm.”
She sketched a circle in the center of his chest over his heart. He flinched a little at the scratching of the quill’s tip, but he didn’t resist what she was doing.

She drew a second circle inside the first. Then she began writing sigils between the lines, creating a ring of symbols he didn’t recognize.

Drawing them took about ten minutes, during which neither of them spoke. When she was finished, she pulled out a dagger and pricked her index finger with it, drawing blood.

“Give me your hand,” she said.

He did as he was told. She grasped his index finger and pricked it as she had hers. Before he could cry out, she mashed her own bleeding finger to his, mixing the blood. Then she smeared the mingled blood in the inner circle of ink on his chest. She leaned in, kissed the bloody mark, and whispered, “Wolf Dasher, my love.” Then she blew on the mark.

Wolf saw the sigils and circles light up with green, magical light. His whole chest felt warm. His heart seemed at peace.

A second later, the magical light disappeared. So did the blood on his chest. The ink had dried. It looked as though he had a small tattoo.

“Now,” she said, “if you get in trouble, you touch the finger I cut to the center of this mark and think my name. It will send a signal to me, and I will be able to find you. I will come to save you.”

He stared at her in wonder. In the past seven months since he’d started dating May Honeyflower, he’d discovered she was an amazing woman. But this was something deeper, something more bewitching than anything he’d yet seen. He felt the love in his heart grow stronger.

He put his hands to her face and kissed her deeply and passionately. She responded, throwing her arms around him and trying to draw him into her. After a moment, he pulled back and stared into those gorgeous, yellow eyes.

“May,” he said, “don’t you worry. I will come back to you if I have to cross Hell to do it. I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said, tears once again filling her eyes. “You better make good on that promise.”

He drew her to him and kissed her again. Then he rose from the chair, picked her up, and carried her to the bed. There, they made love until they were both too exhausted to continue. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.


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