When his grandfather forced him to choose between love and family, Damien Dracon fled to Europe and left Alicia Stevens behind. Now he’s back to witness the pain he caused for the first time. Will Alicia take him back?
Title: Shattered Magic
Author: D.M. Roberto
Review Rating: 1 star
You know, of the Köln Sinclairs
Shattered Magic is the 3rd book in author D.M. Roberto’s Devon Falls series. There is a little potted history of Devon Falls for any readers who aren’t up to speed, which is a considerate touch. The storytelling isn’t harmed at all by being separated from the fantasy world-building in this way. In fact, removing the world-building from the story entirely would leave the narrative almost unaltered; it’s a MacGuffin story, really. But isolating the world-building shines an unflattering spotlight on its weaknesses and those are a distraction before the characters have even appeared for the first time.
Four families founded Devon Falls in 1784, which sounds like an inbreeding nightmare, and they are as follows: the Stevenses of France; the Sinclairs of Germany; the Cravens of Russia; and the Dracons of London. London isn’t a country and Germany didn’t exist in 1784; those are editing problems. But I do wonder about the pairing of family names to nationalities. Sinclair? Craven? Stevens?
If the countries of origin are important—France, Germany, Russia, and England—why not choose names from those countries? If the names are important—Stevens, Sinclair, Craven, and Dracon—why not have the families be English and Scottish? Because those are English or Scottish names, except for Dracon, which is assigned to the English family instead of Stevens or Craven. Sprinkling British names around Europe only works if the reader isn’t paying much attention, and that makes me itchy in any story. The reader SHOULD be paying attention. The author should want that.
We begin Shattered Magic inside Damien’s head, which will spend the entire novella wedged up Damien’s backside. He returns to Devon Falls determined to show Alicia “the sweetness of love,” as if he is the only man who can do that, a belief to which the women of the world should flip both birds.
Damien doesn’t understand why his abrupt departure years earlier might have hurt Alicia (or elsewhere in the story, his family). He is surprised to realize that Alicia might hate him for dumping her and ghosting. He seems to relish the idea of “a chase worthy of being a dragon’s mate,” as if he is a gift Alicia will be lucky to receive. In an all-too-brief moment of clarity, Damien wonders if he is an ass: “Am I being an utter ass, thinking she’ll welcome me with opens (sic) arms?”
YES, Damien. A thousand times yes. He ogles Alicia through the window of her business like a sexual predator. He gets a massive erection every time he sees her. He whistles happily at the thought of confronting her, confident that all the situation needs is tears and a pretty speech. He has the nerve to say to Alicia that it pains him to see her hold onto the hurt he caused her as a shield against him. It pains him. It pains HIM. Damien is self-absorbed, gross, and not too bright.
I’m not sure anybody in Damien’s family is a terribly deep thinker. The reason for Damien’s departure, his family’s obsession with protecting their secret (they are shape shifters), raises some fairly basic questions. Has no member of the Dracon family dated since 1784? What was it about this one relationship, alone among all the relationships of his children and grandchildren (and father and grandfather), that made it seem dangerous to Grandpa Dracon? Did the old man think Rodrick’s trawling the bars for women to harrass was preferable to Damien’s intimacy with Alicia? And if the shapeshifting nature of the Dracons is such a big secret, why is their family business called the “Dragon Inn”?
A tragedy in three acts
Poor Alicia is not up for the challenge of Damien, something Rodrick implies several times by encouraging Damien to approach her before she has time to “get her defences up.” (Get her while she’s too weak to protect herself! Such a romantic hero!) I worry about Alicia’s obsession with Damien’s departure. I worry about the way she has poked at this injury for years so that it never healed, and I worry about the fact that she is still in love with this loser. I worry about the fact that little departed Danielle is a footnote in her mother’s story about her deadbeat dad. Alicia needs to work her way through the unhealthy patterns in her life. She does not need flowers and a picnic.
The way Alicia’s grief over her daughter’s death continues to be present feels true to me. What I can’t bear is the way Shattered Magic treats that grief as only one part of her inability to get over the “jackass” (Alicia’s word) who dumped her. The death of the baby cannot be secondary to the breakup. I’m just not built to imagine a young woman sobbing over an isolette in Neonatal ICU, and then turn and care about a rough teenage breakup instead. Dead babies happen in real life. In real life, rough teenage breakups get left behind by adults who grow up. To have our dead baby cake and eat it too isn’t remotely possible within the setup and page count author D.M. Roberto provides. The mismatch of tone would be bonkers if the result wasn’t so depressing.
Damien is the antagonist in Shattered Magic. He is everyone’s problem: his mother, his brother, Alicia, himself. It’s symmetrical, certainly, but it isn’t promising for the Happily Ever After. Alicia deserves a life of self-respect, dignity, and the love of a good man. The only thing Shattered Magic has to offer her is Damien.❤