Burning Alive (The Sentinel Wars, bk 1) by Shannon K. Butcher

I received this book for review from the publisher so I could catch up on the series for the release of the newest book, Running Scared which comes out in May.

The Premise: Helen Day has a horrible fear of fire because she’s always had visions of being burned to death while a man watches on and smiles. One day she’s at the local diner with friends when sees the man in her vision sitting a nearby booth, and inadvertently gets his attention. The man Helen fears is Drake, a warrior and member of the Theronai race, one of the Sentinel races that are fighting a secret war against monsters called the Synestryn. The Theronai are slowly dying. They’re getting older, Theronai women are rare, and the race has become infertile, but Helen somehow lessens the constant pain Drake is under and Drake is desperate.

Read Chapter 1 of Burning Alive

My Thoughts: At the start of this book, there’s a lot information about the world of the Theronai and their battle against the Synestryn that the reader and Helen don’t know. It takes a while to get some of the information and in the meantime, Helen is confused and afraid. Of course it doesn’t help matters that Theronai blood draws the horrific Synestryn to them, and Drake and his friends have to protect Helen and her friends at the diner. Helen along with her friends, an elderly school teacher, and the waitress, Lexi fight them every step of the way.  Helen believes her vision and so she’s terrified of Drake.

Helen’s fear of fire was understandable. She’s had her visions for a long time and they are very real to her. The story often brings up this fear as a stumbling block for her and she freezes up, unable to continue when she encounters it. I know I should feel for Helen, but most of the time I found myself wanting to sympathize, yet not being able to. Instead I felt exasperated, especially when her freezing up leads to harsh consequences for others. Helen’s low self-esteem in her looks didn’t help either. The combination of her constant fear and hang-ups disappointed me. I prefer reading about heroines who have more confidence than Helen does.

Drake was even harder to connect to than Helen. He’s a strong warrior who loves his brothers-in-arms and has the weight of decades of killing and of his body’s pain on his shoulders. He is desperate and willing to omit some truths to make Helen his (When I discovered this, he didn’t win any points from me), but I didn’t know much else about his personality.

Even though there are pages and pages of sex scenes which were detailed and explicit, I the relationship didn’t interest me. I felt like there was way too much telling over showing, and we’re in the heads of the hero and heroine a lot yet I wasn’t gleaning much besides the superficial from it. I was being told that Drake thinks Helen is so beautiful and told that Helen thinks Drake is so strong, but it didn’t mean as much to me as being shown why they had those qualities and why he and Helen were right for each other. All there seemed to be was the “soul-mate” concept that is used here – the concept of the Theronai and his mate. And that too bothered me (the soul-mate idea in romance often does). The story suggests Helen has free will and there are other options besides Drake, but the plot really gives her very little choice, so I ended up feeling like they got together because of physical and practical reasons, not emotional ones.

There are secondary characters who were on the page for small moments who had more impact than the main couple. I liked Sybil, who was a truly alien character, and Gilda, the powerful Gray Lady lived up to her title and was ambiguous character.  I also liked Lexi a lot – she fought back and acted quickly during stress, unlike Helen, and Zach, the Theronai who desperately searches for Lexi suggests that there will be a sequel for the two of them (looks like the third book) which I’m more interested in reading.

I found the concept of the strapping warriors of the Theronai and their fight against monsters, their life trees on their chests with leaves that fall as they age, and the souls of who they kill in their swords, a little hokey, especially at the beginning of the book. The names – Theronai, Synestryn, Gerai, Sanguinar (a sort of vampire race), Athanasia, didn’t help either. That aside, the story became more complex as the book went along and the author probably has a bigger story arc planned that will span several books. Even the “good” guys aren’t what they seem.I think a few characters introduced here will reveal hidden agendas and we’ll also find out more about what the enemy Synestryn are up to. It could be an interesting story if I could warm up to the characters more. I hope that the next book has a couple I can connect to better because it’s waiting in my TBR.

Overall: This paranormal romance ended up being a miss for me. There is potential in the underlying story arc over the course of the next few books, and there are a couple of intriguing characters, but in Burning Alive I wasn’t invested in the primary relationship and had to push myself to keep reading. I hope I connect better to the hero and heroine in the next book.

Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and the Unread – C
Babbling about Books and More – C
Book Binge – 4 out of 5

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