Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here There Be Dragons

Recently I’ve read several fun new releases featuring dragon shifters, so I thought I’d do a quick review of some dragon themed books. I have to admit that years ago it never would have occurred to me to read books about werewolves, much less dragons, but I’ve really enjoyed them. These authors have created intriguing fictional worlds and it makes for some great escapism. Check them out!
Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound
I found this novel to be really clever. The author has used several familiar tropes (shape-shifters, mates, the fae) in creating her fictional world, but she puts a spin on these to create new and captivating characters. These characters are really appealing, which for me absolutely sells this book, and I can’t wait until September when the second novel of the series is released. The heroine of Dragon Bound, Pia Giovanni, is blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend into stealing from the most powerful dragon in the world, Dragos Cuelebre. He’s a Wyr, a shape-shifter, and Pia is half-wyr. Pia and Dragos meet because she steals a penny from his horde. In one of the many humorous moments, Dragos reads the note she left apologizing for the theft: “I’m sorry I had to take your penny. Here’s another to replace it.” Dragos hunts her down and discovers her to be as intriguing as her note. Over the course of the novel the two fall in love, and the sparks between them fly. The novel is action packed and sexy, plus full of surprises. Late in the novel we learn exactly what Pia’s other “half” is, and the wonder that the other characters experience at the revelation is almost equal to that of the reader. This jaded reader was certainly surprised, and that is unusual these days. I highly recommend this one!
Keri Arthur’s Mercy Burns
This is the second novel in Keri Arthur’s Myth and Magic Series, and the first novel of hers that I’ve read. The protagonist, Mercy, is half human and half dragon, and she’s helping a friend discover what happened to her sister. Unfortunately, Mercy and her friend are attacked and the friend does not survive. Mercy persists in looking for the truth behind the murders and discovers a conspiracy that could change the dragon world forever.
This wasn’t a bad novel; it just didn’t grab my interest the way the others did. Mercy’s character has experienced considerable abuse at the hands of the dragons because she’s “draman” (half human, half dragon), and she talks a lot about that abuse. Unfortunately I felt that the world of the dragons was a little underdeveloped. I would have liked to have seen one of the dragon communities that Mercy talks about, not just see her interact with other dragons in the human world.  She is aided in her search for answers by a dragon called “Muerte”, and we learn a little about his role in the dragon world, but I just wasn’t drawn into their relationship the way I was with the other books. I might check out the sequel at the library, but I’m not sure I’d purchase it. In fact, I didn’t even realize this was part of a series until the very end, and after reading reviews of the first novel, I’ll definitely be skipping it.
Allyson James’ Firewalker
Allyson James has two series about dragon shape-shifters; this one is the second in her Stormwalker series. Ms. James also writes historical romances under the name Jennifer Ashley, which are a lot of fun, so if dragons aren’t your thing but velvet and lace are, check her out! I read Stormwalker some time last year, but I didn’t realize that the sequel was out until I saw it at the library this weekend. This is actually better than the first book, and I enjoyed the first one considerably. Janet Begay, the heroine, is a stormwalker. She can channel the power of storms, but (spoiler alert) in the first novel we learn that her mother was literally from hell and Janet has inherited her mother’s powers. Janet’s boyfriend, Mick, is a dragon shapeshifter, and he was ordered to kill Janet to prevent her mother from ever escaping hell, but clearly decided not to comply with his orders, since we have a sequel. In this second novel, Mick is facing the consequences of his decision and Janet is fighting the growing power within her.
I really like how Ms. James uses Native American mythology and dragon lore in this novel. The character of Coyote is, as he should be, quite the trickster, and the dragons are really snooty. Janet and her magic mirror supply this urban fantasy (can it be urban fantasy if it’s in the desert?) with its required snark, and are just a lot of fun to read. Janet grows as a character in this novel, learning about her powers but also figuring out that she does in fact possess the strength to control them. I’m looking forward to future installments of this series, and I’m not sure I could have said that after the first book in the series.
G.A. Aiken’s Last Dragon Standing
As much as I loved Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound and continue to re-read it, G.A. Aiken’s Last Dragon Standing is far and away one of my favorite shapeshifter books. G. A. Aiken is actually the pseudonym used by Shelly Laurenston when writing her Dragon Kin series, and I love to read her books because they are so very, very funny. This particular novel features the beautiful and spoiled dragon princess Keita, and how the author can take a stunningly beautiful spoiled brat and make her so very appealing is proof of the author’s skill. Keita is unabashedly self-centered, but as the hero Ragnar learns, Keita’s narcissistic tendencies are exaggerated for effect. In fact, she uses her over the top personality and good looks to spy for her country and protect the throne, despite Keita’s complicated relationship with her mother, the dragon queen. Ragnar is a Lightning dragon from the north, while Keita is a Fire dragon from the south, but somehow they manage to get together despite Ragnar’s superiority complex and Keita’s fear of commitment. This novel is the fourth novel in Aiken’s Dragon Kin series, and several of the characters from previous novels make appearances. You don’t have to have read the others to follow along, but you’ll definitely enjoy this more if you’ve read the others first. The relationships between the dragon family members make this series a hoot, and I highly recommend it.

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