3 out of 5 scaly stars
I wanted to fall madly, deeply in love with this. You know how you read a blurb, you see a cover, and you think yaaaaas!!! This one! This one is for me! This is what I want! That’s how I felt when I saw/heard about Talon for the first time. Knowing it was written by Julie Kagawa, whose broody and intense Blood of Eden series terrified and entertained me, just added to my expectations. The only thing I was reticent about was the “dragon can turn into a human” trope, which I’ve always had a problem with. Sadly, I’m also not a fan of cheese. I mean, I like it on a pizza, on crackers… ok, I’m a huge fan of cheese, but not in fiction. There were large dollops of this that I read in a romance-novel announcer’s voice, and that is not something I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-toned chest rippling in the moonlight, but dear God in heaven. In some books that kinda thing is slipped in unobtrusively, and then there’s the heavy-handed romance novel way. I’m not a fan of the latter, and romance-speak was really heavy in this. Also –the dreaded insta-love, not once, but twice, between three people… so insta-love plus love-triangle. So not a fan of that. Add in that dragons aren’t supposed to feel love like humans, and it’s just confusing. This is the most conflicted 3 star review I’ve done in a long time. Despite my complaints, there are some really good things about this book, and I will get to those.
What we have here is the hidden society of dragons trying to teach their offspring how to integrate into human society so they can continue to remain hidden. The central point of dragon society is Talon – but I couldn’t tell if it was a city or just the name of the organization that controls the dragons. And control them, they do. Everyone has a place and they tell you just what it is. Hatchlings are trained and put into a job without being consulted, and nobody with half a brain will complain about it. Most dragons don’t have siblings, but Ember and Dante were born at the same time. They’re supposed to be going to a beachside California town for sun and fun and integration with the locals before beginning their training for whatever job Talon is going to put them into. They’ve been isolated and alone at a training center, with constant surveillance and no fun at all. The rules in the new place are also very tight, the humans they are being fostered by have no sense of humor, but Ember is determined to make the best of it. She wants to let her hair down and have fun, and begins immediately. She has no trouble at all, and seems to make friends and fit in right away, with little hindrance from her dragon upbringing.
The main reason the dragons try to stay hidden is because of the Order of St. George, a military organization that wants to obliterate them. The order has gotten word of where a dragon is going to be (though these excellent sources can’t tell them what the dragon looks like or their name) and Garret and Tristan, two soldiers of the order, are picked to go into the field and get close to the local teen population and sort out who the dragon is. St. George seems to suck at this. They have no fast and hard signs of how to recognize a dragon in human form – other than they expect them to be emotionless. They key in on Ember and her friends, for little reason that I can see. This is where a lot of the cheese comes in. Garret and Ember are immediately drawn to each other. She can’t stop thinking about him, and vice versa. Garret’s parts are so repetitive. We are told, again and again, how cold and emotionless and sterile his life should be and how this girl shouldn’t be getting in the way of his tough soldier vibe! I employed my cheesey announcer voice again and again on his parts. I also found a slight sexist skew. The Order of St. George doesn’t have women as soldiers – only as nurses and support staff. Also… Ember had no problem noting Garret’s tanned and defined body but we are to believe when Garret checks her out, which to be honest, he doesn’t, all he thinks about is her hair? I also found it weird that Garret was less comfortable with human society than Ember. He didn’t know what the games on the Midway at the fair were. I can’t believe even a secret military society would keep their recruits more isolated than the dragons keep their hatchlings.
Ember and Dante don’t only face danger from St. George. They aren’t on the beach for two seconds when they see another dragon in human form – a rogue, someone whose broken away from Talon, comes revving in on a motorcycle. Going rogue means death if you’re caught, and seeing a rogue and not reporting him is akin to sedition. Ember is drawn to this dangerous dragon, and it just opens up another wedge between herself and Dante. Ember is stifled by the rules and regulations, and tests their limits, but Dante is strictly by the book. He seems to be drawing away from her and keeping secrets. And this rogue, Riley, shows up with hints about Talon. He suggests there could be another life, free of their influence. Hurt and frustrated, Ember listens and wants to know more. But can she trust Dante to listen to her or will he turn them in?
Despite my complaints, mostly because of the cheese and the logic problems – the book has a lot of good points, most of which I can’t tell you about because spoilers. The pacing and writing is good when it’s not cheese-tastic or repetitive. I love the world and want to know more. Talon is scary, as are the adult dragons the kids come in contact with. The jeopardy to the characters feels real, and the characters, the ones that are important, anyway, are well-fleshed out. I was engaged the whole time, even when I was rolling my eyes. I am going on to the second one, and have hope. Sadly, all the things I didn’t like about it have to knock it down to 3 stars, which to me, is meh. 3 stars to me means “nothing special” and I don’t want to say that about this book. I’d give it more like 3.5 in the non-Goodreads world.