RELEASE DAY-REVIEW: Dryad on Fire – Carnivale of Mysteries Anthology- Nicole Dennis

Dryad on Fire Book Cover Dryad on Fire
Carnivale of Mysteries
Nicole Dennis
LGBTQ Fiction, Gay Fantasy, Magic, Anthology
FatCat Publishing
Sept 13, 2023

Welcome, Traveler, to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries!

What you see before you is no mere vagabond circus. Indeed, our show is full of wonders and delights that will leave you breathless, but whether that is with amazement or dread depends entirely upon you. We are unlike any other band of creatures you have ever encountered -- and you few brave souls who choose to step beyond your mundane expectations and join us may witness sights beyond your wildest imaginings.

So sit back, relax, and let us entertain you. For time and worlds are fleeting, but each soul has a tale to tell.

Male dryad, Professor Julian Scarlett lands a protected position at the Lunore Academy of the Arcane. Caretaker of his grove, he senses trouble brewing underneath his oak and grove.

A mysterious traveling carnival offers distraction and fun. For Julian, a tarot card reading sparks off fears and heightens hopes.

Brought in mid-semester to replace an ailing Professor of Botany, Emrys Cadogan tries to prevent a potential disaster. A druid, he gets lost in the overwhelming work. Until the carnival offers him a brief distraction and pause.

Sparks strike away from the midway lights. Dark magic flickers and threatens. From games and shows, to life and survival, a druid and a dryad need to survive and fight together to save more than trees.
Dryad on Fire is part of the multi-author Carnival of Mysteries Series. Each book stands alone, but each one includes at least one visit to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, a magical, multiverse traveling show full of unusual acts, games, and rides. The Carnival changes to suit the world it’s on, so each visit is unique and special. This book contains a mysterious hero, a lonely wanderer, a vengeful god, and a guaranteed HEA.

DUAL Reviews by Linda Tonis and Ulysses Dietz

Members of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team


Emrys Cadogan has accepted the position of Professor of Botany at Lunore Academy replacing Professor Doerr whose dementia he kept hidden long enough for the greenhouses to become a nightmare and the flora near death. Emrys has his work cut out for him, three greenhouses in a state of total chaos and one holding dangerous and deadly plants which should never be on academy grounds.

Emrys tends to stay away from other professors and prefers the company of his assistants who are only now beginning to flourish under his tutelage. Emrys was determined to put all his energies into the three greenhouses until one of his assistants, Casper, informed him of the problems that Professor Julian Scarlett, Professor of Magical Ecology and a dryad was having with his grove. Emrys had no idea of how serious Julian’s situation was, so serious that with the grove suffering he is also.

The Carnival of Mysteries had been invited to the school and it was there that both Emrys and Julian got a taste of what the carnival offers. Emrys had an introduction to Errante Ame the owner who had some sage advice for him, and Julian had a visit with Madame Persephone the fortune teller who read the tarot cards and told him there would be fire in his life and danger but there would be help in the form of the Knight of Pentacles, someone of the earth.

Her prediction was right on the money when his grove and guardian tree were set on fire. The fire extended to Julian and only his tree would be able to save him, but his tree is dying. Emrys has put all his efforts into trying to save the grove and find a replacement oak that with his magic as a druid can grow big enough for Julian to enter and heal. Without another sentient oak that Julian can bond with he will be as dead as his grove.

After examining the grove Emrys realizes that new trees can’t be planted because the soil in the grove has been poisoned making new growth impossible. Julian’s condition worsens and Emrys cousins come to help, they discover the poison used to destroy the grove has also been used to poison Julian. Time is running out and it is a race to save both the grove and Julian, and everyone is pitching in. Emrys’ assistants Casper and Miller prove to be worth their weight in gold. Casper is able to locate the trees that are needed for replanting and another rare oak to replace the dead one. Miller has been doing research for his thesis and it is just what they need.

Someone from the past is hungry for revenge and it is aimed at Julian and his grove. Finding the guilty parties is difficult where magical beings exist and can use that magic to keep hidden. Old soil must be dug up and new soil needs to be added, but first the poisoned soil must all be removed, and the question is how far down does the poison go.

This book was a study in botany, plants, potting, growing and I am the person who killed a plant with a reputation of being unkillable lol. Suspense, another visit to the Carnival of Mysteries, secrets and magic. This series is amazing, and each book is by a different author, the only thing they have in common is a visit to the Carnival of Mysteries.


This installment in the Carnival of Mysteries series takes us even deeper into the magic of Errante Ame and his traveling carnival. This is not the first book in the series to take place in a world with magic; but it is the first in which Errante Ame’s status as an ancient and immortal magical being is openly acknowledged. It particularly works here because the book is set in a place calledNucira, the far eastern realm of a fully magical universe. The Carnival of Mysteries stops here in the course of its never-ending travels, because there is a serious need and looming danger.

With some authors, this whole world might be considered Fae, because there are magical beings who are not exactly human (hence genders are referred to as male and female, since man and woman are human terms). Specifically, we are dealing with the unseen troubles at a famous old regional school of magic, theLunore Academy of the Arcane. This is also a world in which people travel via portals from one realm to another, while using their smartphones and watching movies.

The catalyst for the action is Emrys Cadogan, scion of a major magical family (about whom we learn a great deal as the story unfolds). Emrys is a Druid, but also a Wizard, giving him unusual skills. He has been called to Lunore Academy to salvage a huge mess left by a longtime professor of magical botany. After months in his job, Emrys has still not met any of his colleagues other than the head of school who hired him. He has been so deeply immersed in the emergency in the academy’s greenhouses, that he has not felt he had to time for even the barest socializing. His only close ties are to the beleaguered graduate students left behind by the ousted professor—and he quickly forges bonds with them as mentor, teacher, and friend.

This changes when Emrys is finally forced, at a mandatory school meeting (i.e. they lock the doors so nobody can sneak out) to shake hands with a much-beloved professor of magical ecology, Julian Scarlett. Julian is a magical rarity – a male Dryad, or tree spirit. Julian fled an unhappy past (about which we learn, eventually) to assume the role of caretaker of the academy’s magical grove, and the old scarlet oak at its center. As soon as their hands touch, not only does Emrys feel an electric connection with Julian, but also realizes that something is seriously wrong; both with the handsome redhaired professor, and with the grove he guards.

Nicole Dennis builds her world of the Lunore Academy very nicely, and pulls the reader along as the plot thickens, darkens, and becomes unexpectedly urgent. Emrys and Julian are clearly the couple at the story’s center, but their incipient friendship is derailed by Julian’s bursting into flames after a visit to Madame Persephone at the Carnival of Mysteries. Even in such a magical setting, this is bad news, and triggers a frantic effort to unearth an evil plot to destroy the academy and the natural world it protects.

There is a lot to like about this story. It is magically romantic, but the romance is centered on helping other people and discovering their goodness through acts of generosity and compassion. Dennis doesn’t ignore the physical side of things – she is very good with descriptions that give literal and emotional texture to the plot, and is not blind to the beauty of both her protagonists.

The intensity of the disaster at Lunore pushes both protagonists to find hidden reserves within themselves that emerge when linked to the desperate need of the natural world they’re mandated to protect.

It’s a ripping good story, with appealing characters and a vividly created world. The Carnival knows what it’s doing.

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