The Citrine Key by L. L. MacRae

A stolen artefact.

An ancient dragon.

One man’s final chance.

Life-long thief Apollo Tamlin has been marked for execution. When the mage Queen Surayo offers him a pardon, he doesn’t ask questions – any task she has is better than a walk to the gallows.

Succeed, and not only will it preserve peace in his homeland, but Apollo can rebuild the life he’s ruined.

Sent to a distant continent to feed a stolen artefact to an ancient and powerful dragon spirit sounds simple, but things quickly start going wrong. His companions are not what they seem, the dragon would rather eat him, and the artefact displays its own magic – throwing the entire mission into peril.

I read this highly enjoyable novella on my kindle.

The Citrine Key is a prequel novella set in the same world as the author’s Dragon Spirits series. Due to its lack of length, a novella needs to jump right into the story and introduce its characters straightaway. This is done very well in The Citrine Key, with our three main characters already making their way to the mountain range where they hope to find the dragon spirit, Paragos, when we meet them.

The three main characters, Apollo, a thief and lovable rogue, Malora a onetime cleric, and Yorik, a fisherman and murderer, who proved himself during a fight while imprisoned with Apollo, are on a quest to deliver a stolen magical artifact to Paragos, the dangerous dragon “Spirit of the Eternal Blizzard”. They have been sent on this quest by their queen, Soraya, who has promised to wipe Apollo’s slate clean of all his crimes if the mission is successful. Until they accomplish their task they are cursed by the queen, but they only have three weeks before their ship will return to Porsenthia, with or without them on board.

The relationship between Malora and Apollo is impressively realistic in such a short book. Apollo wasn’t sure if she would wait for him while he was imprisoned, he seems insecure in their relationship, but he needn’t have worried. Malora is devoted to Apollo, and it seems that it would never have occurred to her not to wait for him in order that they could undertake this perilous journey together.

Apollo’s relationship with Yorik is somewhat comical. He gets annoyed with Yorik’s constant complaining and calling him “Son” when the age difference is not that large.

The tension and sense of trepidation in the story rises with the appearance of Paragos. I always love a good description of a dragon and this one was no exception:

Silver-white and flecked with grey and blue, Paragos was the colour of a winter storm. An ancient dragon, whose size was beyond measure, the Spirit of the Eternal Blizzard sent out a gust of frozen wind with each breath. Dark grey plates of horn ran the length of his upper body, glittering blue gems encrusted his lower body, and his wings were thin, membranous sheets of silver—stretching far beyond his tail, which encircled the mountain they rested underneath. Twin horns crested his enormous head, the colour of a glacier, and curled down towards his back. The strength of the dragon’s presence caused the ground to tremble as if afflicted by an earthquake.

There are elements of mystery introduced to the story along the way. What exactly is this artifact and why are the three questers suddenly being led towards a castle away from their goal of feeding the magical artifact of the title to the dragon?

But Apollo had to wonder, what in all of Tassar could Surayo, Conqueror Queen and Supreme Ruler of the Porsenthian Empire, a mage in her own right and with a powerful spirit under her control, possibly be afraid of that fit in a box that small?

The cold temperatures with which they are beset while in the dragon’s presence are palpable, due to MacRae’s excellent descriptive skills, and equally so is the crushing breathlessness they experience within the castle.

This short novella accomplished a lot in terms of scene setting and world building and I am looking forward to continuing my exploration of this world with The Iron Crown, the first full length book in MacRae’s Dragon Spirits series

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Lauren is a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure.

Her DRAGON SPIRITS epic fantasy series explores the magic-drenched world of Tassar, where powerful guardian spirits reign supreme.

Her WORLD OF LINARIA epic fantasy series is a light-hearted, fast-paced fantasy adventure with bucket-loads of magic, dragons, sky pirates, and airships.

The KOUZLO SAGA marks her first foray into urban fantasy, with demon-hunting and kick-ass characters set in the London area.

She lives in a tiny village in the UK, has a degree in Psychology, and was a professional copywriter before going full-time as an author – swapping corporate copy for magic and dragons!

For signed paperbacks, visit

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