Julie Kagawa writes entertaining young adult romances into which she always adds an element of fantasy, whether it be vampires, faeries, or in this case, dragons. Nevertheless, the books are first and foremost young adult romances, and are well done in spite of their inevitable predictability. They provide light entertaining reads.
Ember Hill is 16, and she is a dragon. She and her “clutch-mate” Dante have been sent to Southern California for the summer for some additional training in “fitting in” with humans, as well as learning to prepare for the adult roles that have been assigned to them. Dragons can shift into human form and do so regularly in order to hide from members of the Order of St. George, a cult of dragonslayers. Both dragons and those in the Order are convinced that the other race is evil, and must be destroyed.
Garret Xavier Sebastian, 17, is in the Order and is also in Crescent Beach, California, after receiving word that Talon, the dragon organization, is using that place to train dragons. Garret and his buddy Tristan were sent there to assimilate as well, and to find and kill the “sleeper” dragons. And there is another character who shares the narration with Ember and Garret, and who has also come to this place for the dragon activity: the handsome “bad boy” Riley, who happens to be a dragon who has gone “rogue.”
Well, obviously one can see at the very beginning where this story is going. But that knowledge does not diminish the enjoyment of seeing how the plot is played out. Ember, like Kagawa’s other heroines, is no pushover; she is brave, spunky, and loyal but thinks for herself. Garret is handsome, dedicated, and also open to new perspectives. But Ember has an “inner dragon” that competes for her attention, just as Garret has an “inner soldier.” Moreover, they each belong to vicious organizations that will not allow compromise or nuance to interfere with their objectives.
There is an additional complication as well. Both Talon and St. George seem to have hidden agendas which would alienate their young, idealistic adherents if discovered. Riley wants Ember to know the truth, and Ember’s dragon is drawn to Riley’s dragon. But in her human form, she wants Garret. There is an inevitable showdown, but the outcome is far from certain.
Evaluation: I like Kagawa. Her fantasy elements could be considered over the top by some, but they really aren’t intrusive; they just help move the relationships along. This is definitely not comparable to a dragon book like Seraphina, with its depth and sophisticated world building. It really is more of a young adult romance with two teens discovering how to have fun for a change instead of living the army life, so to speak. The dragon element seems no more a complication than say, an apocalypse…. And yes, it’s only book one of a trilogy. But it’s entertaining, and I will probably be back for book two.
Published by Harlequin Teen, 2014