This is a review of an ARC copy of this book that I picked up at BEA.
The Premise: Jacinda is a draki – a dragon descendant who can shift into human form. She’s also the only fire-breathing draki of her pride, and because of this, they have her earmarked as a pride asset whose genes they want bred with Cassian, the leader’s son. When Jacinda impulsively breaks pride rules and sneaks out for a flight, and subsequently is almost killed by hunters, the punishment promises to be severe. Rather than continue to let her daughter be controlled, Jacinda’s mom takes her twin daughters and escapes their secret draki town in the middle of the night. However, where they relocate to (a desert town miles away from the mountains and rivers that sustain the draki), may prove to be more dangerous. Not only is this where Jacinda’s abilities begin to fade, but it’s also where a draki hunter family lives, and Jacinda can’t seem to stay away from Will, who is one of them.
My Thoughts: I’ve been a little bit wary of the young adult shape shifting dragon subset of fiction ever since I read MaryJanice Davidson’s Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace (). I had huge, ranty problems with the way the parents acted and many of the characters, but it’s been a while since that experience, and I was drawn to the subtlety of the Firelight cover. In comparison, Firelight comes out as the better book, but it’s not without its problems.
The story begins promisingly enough, with Jacinda narrating to us about her (restricted) life within the tribe, giving us some back story about her being a draki. She was aware that ever since she manifested as a draki (her twin Tamra never did), that everyone has looked at her differently. Rather than Jacinda, they now see The Only Fire-Breathing Draki In Generations, and so they’ve been suffocating her with their expectations. They’ve all decided that to preserve her unique genetics she must be married off to the strongest young male, the Alpha’s son, Cassian. Jacinda chafes at this because she doesn’t particularly want Cassian, but she’s started to resign herself to this fate. When Jacinda breaks the rules and almost gets caught by hunters (a certain death), her worth to the tribe promises a particularly ugly punishment. Fortunately, her parents aren’t sitting idly by while their daughter gets treated like chattel. Jacinda’s mother packs up and sneaks out of town with her daughters.
Jacinda goes along with this, but unlike them, she fears leaving her home. Her sister Tamra has always wanted to be normal, and is sick of living in Jacinda’s shadow ever since Jacinda manifested, and Jacinda’s mom has voluntarily let go of her draki side. For them it’s easy to live among humans, but for Jacinda, who LOVES being a draki, it’s extremely difficult to let her draki die. This conflict within the family was pretty interesting. Although I did find the family dynamics frustrating at times (there seem to be a lot of arguments where Jacinda and Tamra didn’t really try to understand each other or just shut down), her relationship with her mother and her sister feel realistic. Jacinda can come off as a little whiny around them, but I don’t particularly fault her for it because of what she’s been going through, and I don’t fault her mother or her sister’s reactions or feelings either.
What I did have a problem with in this story is Jacinda’s relationship with Will. It’s overly-dramatic for me. When Jacinda finds him at her new school, she practically has an attack and changes into a draki in front of a crowded hall of students, and from then on their reactions to each other are along this same vein, with Jacinda hyper-aware of Will and longing stares between the two of them. Will is some kind of fantasy boy: rich, good-looking and has never shown interest in a girl before. Jacinda’s mom and sister don’t approve of a guy who makes her so emotional she could the manifest, and that’s without knowing he’s a hunter. And Will doesn’t want anyone near him so he can keep them away from his creepy killer family. Will and Jacinda sneak around, imagining that they are Romeo and Juliet, but an incredibly indecisive Romeo and Juliet. They swing back and forth between “no, I must stay away” and “Oh no, I can’t stay away” so much that I was really irritated – particularly because there is all this hand-wringing when I have no idea why Will and Jacinda even like each other. Jacinda and Will barely speak and when they do it’s about how they shouldn’t be together or how much they want to be together. I think this idea of an impossible love is why it’s touted as something that will appeal to fans of Twilight (the hunter falls for his prey in Firelight, the lion with the lamb in Twilight), but there’s something missing in the formula here which Twilight had. (And Jacinda didn’t win any points when she finds herself musing on Cassian’s attractiveness when he reenters the picture!)
If not for this forbidden love, the people around Jacinda and Will, and the consequences of who they both are make for an intriguing plot. I had questions about what the reaction of Will’s cousin would really be if he found out what Jacinda was, what really happened to her father, and what would happen to her if she was dragged back to her pride. There’s plenty of room for more revelations here, and I wish some of it was explored further, but the Jacinda/Will relationship took much of the room.
Overall: I liked the ideas in this one, it has thoughtful world building, and the writing isn’t bad either. I’d call this a solid read, but I had really big problems with the superficiality of the relationship between Jacinda and Will, so the romance brought down my enjoyment. The ending leaves the reader wanting more, but I’m not eager for more of Jacinda’s love life (I feel like a cynical curmudgeon, but there you have it), so I’ll pass on book 2.
Lurv a la Mode – 1 scoop (out of 5)
The Vampire Book Club – 4/5
Jawas Read, Too – 6 (out of 10)
My Favourite Books – positive review
Chachic’s book nook – mixed
All Things Urban Fantasy – 4/5
Debbie’s World of Books – 4/5
Books and Things – 4/5
YA Book nerd – positive
Although my review shows I had problems with this story, I know others may not have the same kind of reaction. I’d like to pass it forward. I’ve done this before and just asked that whoever got the book write a review for it, but it’s Thanksgiving so this time – no need for a review. If you think you’ll like this one, let me know, and I’ll send along my copy which is a ARC signed by the author. Open to everyone, but first come, first served! Taken