Review: Death by Dragon by Madeleine Ribbon

Fell Harwick, half-incubus and witch extraordinaire, knows how he'll die. Ever since he was a child, he's had visions of a dragon tearing him to pieces. Since he's not terribly fond of the idea--and the power-hungry vampire that killed his mother is now after him for his unprecedented healing abilities--he's gone into hiding. But when a pair of shifters get shot in front of his cabin in the woods, he feels obligated to keep them safe.

Jett and Theodore are members of the local resistance, fighting against the same vamp that wants Fell. Theodore is a beautiful, tragic mess, and Jett hates all incubi on principle--something Fell finds out as he tries to take energy to power his healing magic.

Jett and Fell might have been able to work around one paranormal prejudice. Jett even encourages Fell into sex with Theodore when he needs energy. But then Fell discovers that his future killer has been sleeping on his couch.

So, Fell is now on my list of all-time favorite MC’s. He was a great character without turning into a caricature. On the surface, he’s a geeky, snarky loner who’s socially awkward so he never really knows when to put the brakes on his yapper. There’s a fine line for that kind of character. He could have quickly turned into a cliché, but the author kept his obvious distinctions reined in just right so instead of being over the top and hard to take seriously, he turned into someone I wanted to root for and hang out with.

Now, on the surface, I loved the premise, but my bitter and jaded soul was waiting to be a little irritated with a couple of points. In general I’m not a fan of love triangles, some poor schmuck is gonna get left out in the cold and then I’m pre-sad for him through the whole story. I’m not a big fan of using “magic” as the excuse for plot points. I don’t want to read how characters absolutely HAD to bone, you know, for the magic. BUT, and this is a big ol’ but, it totally worked here. And it worked because of the characters.

Fell is part witch and part incubus. He needs to get energy from the souls of others to fuel his magic and he gets that energy through sexual contact. He can usually get by with a heavy make out session and he’s not really comfortable using people that way. One of his biggest witchy skills is that he can heal others which makes him a hot commodity in the paranormal world. There’s an ongoing war between two factions and Fell wants nothing to do with any of the shenanigans so he keeps himself off the grid so he can live his life in his cabin, losing himself in his RPGs and tending to his garden. In one night his peace is taken from him when a group of four shifters gets chased onto his land by a group of humans, with guns a-blazin’. Two of the shifters survived, Jethro and Theodore and Theodore is a mess who needs Fell’s skills as a healer desperately.

Jethro, or Jett, as he’s more commonly known , and Theodore are adoptive brothers. Theodore’s family took Jett in as one of their own. The other two shifters who were killed on Fell’s land were Theodore’s bio-dad and his twin sister. From what I gather from the story, Theodore and his sister were two halves of a whole and Theodore was fundamentally changed after the event. We never know Theodore before so we have to go by what Jett tells us, but I don’t feel like I was missing anything or that Theodore wasn’t a fully fleshed out character. I could tell he had some emotional issues from the start and he definitely wasn’t a bad guy/wolf by any means, he just wasn’t good enough for Fell to me. Jett is a dragon shifter and has some seriously bad history with incubi and is distrustful of Fell from the start. Fell is SO attracted to Jett and you could tell Jett felt the same (in a super subtle way) but as soon as he found out about Fell’s half-incubus genetics he backed right off. It stood between them as an unspoken barrier from that point on. Theodore and Fell were attracted to one another too and struck up a casual boyfriends-with-benefits arrangement. Fell needed the energy, Theodore needed a connection and they all needed each other for the upcoming battles they were all soon to be a part of.

This wasn’t a typical love story, but it was definitely romantic in a subtle way. It’s heavier on the action and world building than it is on the hearts and flowers, but again, the characters are great so I was ok with it. And besides, sappy declarations of love in the middle of a shifter and vampire war isn’t exactly reasonable. There’s a foreboding pall over the growing relationship between Fell and Jett that was always just right there the whole time. One of Fell’s other skills are his visions and his visions always come true. He’s seen his own death and he knows he’ll die by the claws of a dragon. And, given Jett is the last of the dragons, it’s not hard to figure out how the story is going to have to end. And it sucked. Jett knew it, Fell knew it and I knew it. They are truly becoming friends and dependent on one another, not just for the magic or for the protection, but for the sense of belonging they give to one another.

I wasn’t sure how the author was going to wrap this one up and still give me the happy I wanted so badly. She pulled it off though and I really liked where it went. Nothing was too clean or convenient. Sacrifices were made and it could have gone a variety of different directions at any point. I both loved and was completely frustrated at the end. I loved where the characters ended up, but just when they got there it was over and I wanted more. It was an HEA, most definitely, I was just so into these guys and loved reading about them separately, I really wanted to read more about them together. It was like the relationship was another character introduced and I wanted to know it too. The door is open for a sequel though and that would make me most happy.

For more info on Death by Dragon check it out on Goodreads.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**


  1. Hmmmm...not sure if this is for me? I've added it to my maybe list and if I'm in the mood for a bit of fantasy adventure, I'll give it a go but only because of your review, normally I would pass this one over.

    1. Definitely do it for when you're in the mood for the fantasy adventure. Check out the sample and you'll get a great idea of Fell's voice. That sold it for me.

  2. Huh. Interesting. I'm not usually one for fantasy, but this sounds intriguing. Adding to my TBR. :-)

    1. Sweet! It's actually a good read for you if you aren't too heavy into fantasy. It's not so out there that you need a map and a searchlight to navigate the world building. It's really interesting, but the focus is definitely on the characters so even if fantasy isn't your thing, you'll still love Fell and his Dragon.