Two Flowers for the Dragon 2 by Nari Kusakawa: B+

From the back cover:
A mysterious old snake charmer compelled Shakuya to assume her dragon form and flew away on her back to his desert retreat. Now he is holding her captive and plans to marry her off. Needless to say, no one is happy about that, least of all Shakuya’s two fiancés, Lucien and Kuwan.

They’ve put aside their rivalry to join forces, head out into the desert and try to save the girl they both love. But their alliance may soon unravel when the tattoo on Shakuya’s arm representing Lucien begins to grow—a sign to Kuwan that he may be losing the competition for the Princess’s love.

Like volume one, this cover blurb has a phrase that’s a different color and font from the rest. This time it’s “two fiancés.” I wonder what it’ll be next time. “Turns into a dragon,” perhaps?

This volume picks up with Shakuya in the custody of kidnappers who want to marry her to their lord so he’ll have control of the Oasis of the Dragon, an important stop for desert travelers. Her reaction to all of this is great. Instead of weeping or despairing, she thinks, “This is infuriating!” and begins planning her own escape rather than waiting for one of the guys to rescue her.

Later in the volume, Shakuya decides that she wants to get to know Lucien and begins to ask him questions about his time in the desert. This nicely fills in some narrative holes while showing the progression of Shakuya’s feelings toward her suitors. Later still, the circumstances of Shakuya and Kuwan’s first meeting is also revealed. I started out preferring Kuwan to Lucien, since I tend to like serious and quiet characters, but he’s kind of getting on my nerves now. It seems he only makes an effort to be nice when he’s trying to beat Lucien and not particularly out of any true affection for Shakuya. Lucien, meanwhile, shows that he understands Shakuya pretty well. I’m quite interested in learning what exactly happened to him while he was missing.

One thing I didn’t mention in the review for volume one is that this series has really great dialogue and a good translation, to boot. Characters actually say things that sound intelligent and use a much broader vocabulary than typical manga characters do.

This volume also included a short story called “The Cogwheelers” about a non-human guy who’s responsible for building cogs that represent cause and effect for everything that happens on Earth. He’s having trouble grasping the ramifications, so breaks the rules and goes down to Earth to see what it’s really like. I typically don’t enjoy these kind of volume-padding short stories, but this one is quite good, especially considering it’s only the second thing Kusakawa had published.

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