Author: Louisa Kelley
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Artist: Syneca Featherstone
Rating: 3.25 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 05/23/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Fantasy, Lesbian Romance, New Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Maeven is on a mission. One big and bold enough for her Fieri, and important enough to gain her a trip off Dracan, the secret sanctuary of the dragon shape-shifters. Success in her once-in-a-lifetime challenge means everything – respect, honor, and the bestowal of her full powers. Not to mention doing something vital for the survival of her species.
She’s given strict rules of behavior for living in earth society. Rule number one: keep her true nature hidden. Rule number two: no emotional involvement with humans, despite the age-old, near irresistible attraction between the two races.
Then Maeven meets plucky, devious, adorable Frankie. Who, as it turns out, accidentally, shockingly, shape-shifted – the night before. Ah. So much for the rules.
Frankie is frustrated with her slightly larcenous life not going anywhere in particular. One fateful weekend, she camps alone in the mountains to gain fresh perspective – with a little help from a baggie of something special. That afternoon, in a crazed, furious confrontation with hunters, Frankie accidentally shape-shifts into a dragon–
And discovers a race of magical beings who insist she’s one, too. Then there’s the shining, gorgeous, red-head who promises to teach her so much.
This book is a dual coming-of-age story, with both main characters, Maeven and Frankie, grappling with how they’re going to handle themselves, who they have been, and who they’re going to be. Maeven was well-supported by kin and lived with honor and prestige in an elite military unit in her home dimension and now struggles with her Fieri coming-of-age quest on Earth and the ways in which it beckons her away from the rules and structure of her society. She knows that sometimes you must dare greatly, but neither she nor her companions are certain when to dare and when to follow orders. Frankie has had a rough and lonely upbringing and finds herself adrift and in trouble, dabbling in petty crime until she accidentally turns into a dragon in a ‘shroom-and-fury-fueled encounter with hunters. She faces the near-certainty of losing her lonely and rudderless life on Earth to find she’s strangely reluctant to let it go.
I enjoyed the plot of the book and found the characters and the world/alternate world intriguing. I loved the dialogue between the other-selves (dragon) and human selves of the characters. The pacing was a bit fast, but it was constrained by the urgency of the Fieri quest for Maeven and the mechanics of traveling between the two dimensions. I understand that, but it still felt like the characters moved through their arcs in big leaps that were hard to keep up with. The dialogue was snappy and fluid among the dragon shifters who knew each other well, and guarded or awkward when Frankie burst onto the scene. All-in-all, it was solid, but it didn’t wow me. Perhaps I’m shaped (scarred, even?) by my youth misspent with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, but I was disappointed in the sex-while-telepathically-connected-to-dragons scenes. I wanted more. Okay, so she’s a “wonderful kisser.” What do the kisses feel like? How do they taste? How do they make her feel? I persistently felt like I was being told about what was happening and being felt, rather than experiencing the action or feeling the characters’ emotions through them. At first, I chalked it up to the need for exposition to rapidly catch me up in a book that was fourth in a series. But the book went on as it started, and I kept hearing my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. Rodriguez’s voice whispering in my ear to show-don’t-tell.
There’s a good deal of worry on Maeven and Frankie’s parts about consent and coercion, namely that Frankie will be whisked off to the Dracan home world and subjected to medical testing without her truly having any say-so, and that her travel between Draca and Earth will be restricted. The magical charisma of the Dracan Queen resolves the issue–Frankie is unwilling or unable to resist her. I found that fascinating, if a little problematic, as someone who is into ethics and is a fan of truly free will and enthusiastic consent. I would have loved more exploration of that situation, but Frankie is so besotted she and her sister-self can really only think about where Maeven is and what she’s doing, by that point.
I also particularly enjoyed the explanation of how Frankie’s dragon nature was expressing itself as a predator and fighting off loneliness by compelling her to collect a treasure hoard. I thought the forgiveness scene in the desert was poignant and a great step in Frankie’s character arc, with self-love, trust of Maeven, and re-learning socialization after her rather solitary early years. I wish we could’ve had a similar scene to resolve Frankie’s veganism with her dragon-self’s need to hunt. The conflict was well laid out, but never really resolved.
Finally, this book could’ve used one more proofing. It wasn’t enough to throw me off the book, but every 5 or 10 pages there would be a silly error – a character’s name misspelled or now instead of know, etc. I knocked a quarter star off the rating for that.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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