Book Review: The Dragon’s Flame

 

A bare-chested man, flames burninging in his chest in the shape of a dragon's head

Cover of Dragon’s Flame, book 5 of the Chimera Chronicles

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

e-pages, 282. At the time of this review (5/22/18), the book holds a 5-star review on Amazon with 2 reviews.

Paranormal romance

eBook Obtained By: ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5

3.5 Reese’s Peanut-Butter Eggs, Hearts, or Trees (stick-to-your-ribs good)—see below, take with a cup of coffee for my reading bias.

From the Amazon Description

“Of her crime there can be no forgiveness …

“Billionaire chimera-shifter Kyle Mara’s hold on his humanity is slipping away. Fortunately, his mate has at last been revealed. Unfortunately, she’s the wicked witch who almost killed one of his brothers.

“Backed into a corner by her father, CJ Bansbach had one job to do: bring back chimera genetic material for cloning and kill the donor. Her failure resulted in a year of imprisonment and torture. Being broken out by a chimera on the verge of going feral, even if he kills her or turns her over to the Ethereal council for judgement, seems like a change for the better. Until he tells her she’s his mate.

“Plunged into a treasure hunt to break the bond, they must race to find the pieces of a mythical sword while pursued by CJ’s former employers and fighting the pure sexual heat that sparks every time they touch, because forgiveness isn’t Kyle’s to grant and his family’s happiness is everything to him.”

Watch the trailer Shah put together.

Spoiler-Free Review

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

Dragon’s Flame, a paranormal romance by Karin Shah, is the fifth novel in her Chimera Chronicles. It’s Kyle’s story, and the first one where the primary form is dragon rather than lion. As the eldest brother, and in keeping with a dragon’s love of treasure, Kyle has amassed the wealth from his businesses to bankroll a desperate search for his brothers. In each book before, Shah has made no bones about how close Kyle is to going feral—the dangerous stage when an unmated chimera loses himself to the alternate form. In that state, the human mind loses the battle to the animal, and for the sake of all humanity, someone must put the chimera down. Kyle has tasked his best friend, the likeable demon John, with that burden.

Conflict drives the book. Deliciously ironic, Kyle is destined for the villain in a previous brother’s tale, talented (but dark) witch CJ. Their story revolves around a quest to find the artifact pieces needed for Mara family friend, super-talented witch Thalia, to break the mate bond. Both risk their lives to find the artifact, knowing each must be wrong for the other. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

Part of the fun of Shah’s writing is the family dynamics, each “found” brother and his pregnant mate. As the cast grows in what will be a series of seven novel, they become secondary characters in the next tale. How can Ky fall for the very woman who tried to kill Anjali and Jake (In Like a Lion)?

Shah incorporates deeper conflict in that CJ’s father is a higher-up in the brutal “Omega Corp.,” which wants a chimera in its stable. During Ky’s adventures with CJ, we’ll have the insider’s view of what it’s like to work for an evil father, and an evil corporation, and now to be falling for a man whose family she has so wronged.

The reason I give the book middling marks is Shah’s writing style. She adores adjectives and sentences that occasionally lose me in their complexity. My local writing group worked with my on my adjective and adverb addiction, and on the length of my sentences. When I read books where I feel one more editing pass could have tightened, I downgrade my Chocolate rating. A secondary pattern, which may be mitigated in the final version, is mistakes with commas. I’m a former copy editor, so that bugs me, too. Since I’m reading an ARC, it means some readers might call out those mistakes. I’m a notoriously slow reader, so by the time I finish my review, it’s too late. Don’t think the book labors with these patterns—but I do like to call out when a book isn’t as polished as it could be. Here are examples:

  • The rhythmic sound throbbed though the night and the movement sent gusts of wind tugging at the line of tall, straight evergreens hiding the occupants of the property from prying eyes. (page 60)
  • A narrow-faced man raised his hand across the room and beckoned imperiously to the older woman from his position next to a stooped silver-haired senora sporting a breast-bone covered with diamonds. (page 126)
  • Though, she’d known that might be the case, believed she owed them the catharsis, the reality shredded the last remnants of her defenses, bringing her face to face with her own cowardice. (page 215)
  • “The blue dragon whose neck he’d only just had in his jaws, reared back shaking his massive head, as if confused.” (page 62).

Like most of the books, we’ll have that tidbit of where the next brother’s hiding, even if the bother who gets the hit doesn’t pick up on the clue because of the conflict of falling for the woman who’s done such damage to his family.

As I say each book, I enjoy the characters and the plot. I will read the series through its seventh book because I do love Shah’s characters, her plots, and her twists.  C’mon, making a man of honor fall for the witch who tried to kill family members? That’s a crowning jewel in setting characters along a path fraught with conflict.

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Book Review: Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man’s Chest, Kerry Greenwood (Poisoned Pen Press, 2017 ebook release)Roaring 20s Phryne in a purple dress, standing along a seashore

e-pages, un-numbered in ARC. At the time of this review (1/9/18), the book holds a 4.5-star review on Amazon with 433 reviews.

Historical Mystery

eBook Obtained By: ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 3 Reese’s Peanut-Butter Eggs, Hearts, or Trees (stick-to-your-ribs good)—see below, take with a cup of coffee for my reading bias

 

From the Amazon description

“Dot unfolded the note. “He says that his married couple will look after the divine Miss Fisher…I’ll leave out a bit…their name is Johnson and they seem very reliable.” Phryne got the door open at last. She stepped into the hall. “I think he was mistaken about that,” she commented.

Traveling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She’d promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn’t seem likely at all.

An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably toward a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed, but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no one is getting past her.”

Review

Dead Man’s Chest, Kerry Greenwood (Poisoned Pen Press, 2017 ebook release)

With its omniscient viewpoint (even from the dog) and slow-paced opening, this book varies from what I usually read. I had jumped at the chance for the ARC (advance reader copy) because I loved the three-season series about the “lady detective” living in Australia in the 1920s but hadn’t yet read any of Greenwood’s books. This sounded like an episode I’d seen, so it would provide a chance to appreciate the author’s original works while I tried to ignore the direction the TV episode took—I looked forward to more subplots, and the book did not disappoint in that regard.

The mystery hits fast, with the holiday home Phryne and company stay at in a shambles, and the husband and wife who should be running the household are missing.  The lazy opening pace surprised me, but I suppose reflects that Phryne is on holiday. With her usual ingenuity, she gets the house humming, then balances holiday with solving the mystery.  The head-hopping took me a good three chapters to get used to. I’d have put the book down by then, but I’d made a commitment as an ARC reader, and even if I was starting it a month later than I should have, I was giving it a chance. I did enjoy the characters. If I hadn’t, I would have given it a DNF.

Somewhere about chapter five I got into the book more, appreciating it as a slice of history (an aspect I love so much about the TV series). I cringe (in a good way) as a stench emanates from a hair salon:  “‘It’s those marcel irons,’ said Phryne. ‘If you want hair like corrugated iron, you need to discipline it very severely.’”

I kept reading because of the characters.  I enjoyed watching Ruth come into her own as she worked towards a dream she had; I already knew book-loving, fast-witted Jane would give as good as she got. Who but a bookworm must admit, about their unconventional bookmark rather than dog-earing a corner, “Nothing seemed available except the lettuce.” And when it comes to Phryne standing up for herself, never needing a man to rescue her, of course Greenwood gave me ample reason to cheer. I can well believe this reaction by one of the bad guys: “She looked just like a Dutch doll, pink lips, bright eyes, white skin, black shiny hair. But she didn’t sound like any doll. Phryne Fisher gave [I’m cutting the name] the willies.”

Greenwood walks into the mystery casually, as Phryne investigates and uses her family and some of the locals a’la Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars. The cast of characters rounded out nicely, deepening the slice of life as the mystery got going. The new characters had their own arcs, as did the existing characters, deepening the story. The inclusion of a half dozen Surrealists, provided laughable moments, even if they did slow the pace.

At the end of the novel, Greenwood tied together threads of the plot nicely, playing on characters strengths and weaknesses. It’s a book that satisfies.

Take my 3-chocolate rating with a cup of coffee, as I don’t read a lot of mysteries, and I don’t read a lot of omniscient POV.  That head-hopping and all the filtering words “Phryne heard” or “Dot saw” or “Ruth felt” pushed me out of the story regularly. Language wise, Greenwood painted great descriptions.  Phryne, never one to let a wrong go un-righted, says, “ ‘And boys, I’m going to be here for weeks, and if I see any of you so much as look sideways at an innocent man, woman, child or dog, expect retribution to set in with unusual accuracy and force. You hear me?’ ”

If you like mysteries or historicals, give Miss Fisher’s Mysteries a read.

Learn more about Kerry Greenwood

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Book Review: Magic on the Hunt

Magic on the Hunt, Devon Monk (Roc, 2011)

Cover for Book 6 of the Allie Beckstrom Series346 pp. At the time of this review (12/24/17), it holds a 4.3-star review on Amazon with 34 reviews.

Cover Design, no attribution given

Urban Fantasy

Book Obtained By: Christmas gift because I loved her first books in the series and asked for the rest.

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 4.5 Ghirardelli Salty Caramels (just shy of perfection)

 

From the jacket

“In theory, I could call on enough magic to burn this place to the ground. But the price I’d have to pay would be as big as the spell I cast, and then I’d be nothing but ashes and burnt bones.”

There aren’t many girls who can say they’ve gone into the realm of death and lived to tell the tale. But to restore her lover Zayvion’s soul, Allison Beckstrom had to pay a bitter price—and things are about to get worse….

It turns out the leader of the Authority, the council that decides what can—and can’t—be done with magic, is being held hostage. But when the trail leads Allie and Zayvion to the secret prison where the Authority locks away magical criminals who are too dangerous to be held anywhere else, they find more than they bargained for. An undead magic user has possessed one of the prisoners, and he wants his freedom—and then some. Now Allie and Zayvion are the first line of defense against the chaos he’s about to unleash on the city of Portland….

Review

Magic on the Hunt, Devon Monk (Roc, 2011)

***Contains spoilers from previous books in the series, but none from this book***

If you want a female character with her share of guts, concern for others above herself, and a fierce need to keep her dead dad from taking over her mind, look no farther than Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom. If she’s standing alongside the magic users she trusts, or her beloved “hounds” are in danger, she’s not backing down for any reason. As a hound, Allie chases cast spells back to magic users who have “offloaded” the price of the spell casting onto someone else—because casting magic always comes with a cost.

This book doesn’t see her hound a lot, but when she does, stakes make it important for her to find her targets. Monk guides me in the casting, making me feel like I’m next to Allie, seeing the intricate lines of a spell when she casts Sight; tasting the mark of the spell-caster as only a hound with a sensitive nose can.

If you like snarky comebacks, Allie deals them in spades, especially when one of her friends tries to keep her out of a fight: “Stand back, let you get the bruises, then ride to the rescue. Check.” She’ll have a sharp reply even when she’s up against a villain slinging Death magic. Her days of deferring to her father, Daniel, ended a long time ago, so a little thing like him hitching a ride in her brain isn’t going to stop her from giving him plenty of sass. With Daniel, I still never know when he’s doing something for his own ends, or to protect Allie for any reason other than he’s cheating death by the piece of his soul hitching a ride in her brain.

Stakes rise in this book from the last one, with Monk revealing the powers set to battle over Portland, over the magic that the Authority has long controlled. Prepare to have fun with Monk’s description of the magic surrounding the prison—she had me picturing an Escher drawing, laced with magic. And the folks locked up there? She’s got novel potential on his own when she gets to the villain.

You’ll worry for Allie’s friends on a whole new level, as Monk weaves in the characters we’ve grown to love in earlier books—her best friend Nola and adopted son Cody; Hound Davey Stivers; the pregnant Violet (her dad’s wife, and a woman about Allie’s own age).

The book may start with romance, but that aspect takes a back seat with all the action crammed in here. I don’t miss the romance, because I’m reading for Allie’s story, and I have no doubt of the depth of love Allie and Zayvion share. Monk is holding her characters to an incredibly tight time-line across the series. Tons happened in the previous book (5), and only a few days have elapsed. With all my favorite magic users running on empty, what will go right in their spell-casting, and what will go wrong? That sense of exhaustion comes through, and I worry at the cost of this battle for magic’s control. As Daniel Beckstrom says, “What matters is deciding what our enemy really wants, what his end goal is, and stopping that before it is too late.” Will they figure it out before it’s too late? And even if they do, are they strong enough to stop their enemy?

It may have taken me a month to read the book, but that comes from the chaos of the Christmas season. This is a solidly written book, lots of conflict, rising tension, dialogue that fits the characters, and characters who I love and hate, trust and mis-trust—the same as Allie.  If you enjoy urban fantasy and haven’t read Monk yet, grab that first book in the series and see if it hooks you the way it hooked me.

 

Learn more about Devon Monk:

 

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