When this book originally came out in 2014, I was totally in a dragon phase! (Umm… Hello?! Christopher Paolini, anyone? Love him!) Naturally, the cover immediately caught my eyes as I wandered the shelves of my beloved Barnes & Noble. I should’ve snagged it right then and there. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I passed it up. It was probably one of those rare occasions that my husband came and was subtly monitoring how much I spent on my reading purchases. At any rate, the premise looked intriguing – Set in a modern world, dragons have learned to survive by shape shifting into human form and assimilating with humanity in order to hide from their ancient dragon slaying enemies, the Order of St. George. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the requirement to act like I’m over the age of 16 interrupted. Lack of time and funds and other “adult responsibilities” all converged to push my book addiction to the back burner. ‘Talon’ was subsequently buried in my TBR Wishlist. That is until I stumbled upon it at my local library. I seriously love that place!
From the Cover:
“Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.
Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.
Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.”
The story opens with Ember and her twin brother, Dante, being sent to California for the “Assimilation Phase” of their training. I immediately fell in love with her. She reminded me of myself when I was in high school. All she wants to do is experience the human world and all of its fun facets: Eating junk food, hanging with friends, parties, wandering the mall, all things a typical teenage girl enjoys. Always slightly rebellious though, Ember also chaffs under some of the restrictions. Ones like not being able to revert to her true form and absolutely NO FLYING (which she substitutes with the adrenaline rush of surfing). She isn’t fond of their Human Guardians and hates her trainer; a dragon Ember affectionately dubbed “Evil Talon Lady”. But her free time is hers for the summer so she slips away from those responsibilities as soon as humanly, or is it dragonly, possible. Dante is the reserved and reasonable twin. He’s constantly trying to rein her in and keep her on the straight and narrow. A full time job, to be sure! Full entrenched on the side of Talon, he butts head with Ember the more she starts to question the Organizations intentions. Going against her brother, the one she believed she’d take on the world with, is something Ember struggles with throughout the story.
Another thing Ember grapples with is human attraction. She understands why the boys her girlfriends point out are cute but she just doesn’t feel it the same gut twisting butterflies. That is until she meets Garrett Xavier Sebastian. Garrett, a soldier of St. George, has been sent by the Order with his partner to track down the Sleeper and kill it. Sleeper being the term the Order uses for any dragon placed in human society. Having been adopted by the Order when he was a child after his parents were killed by a dragon, Garrett has known nothing but a military lifestyle. His days are filled with drilling, guns, battles, and killing. His fellow brothers-in-arms have nicknamed him “The Perfect Soldier” because nothing interrupts his dedication to the fight. So when the assignment comes for him to go undercover and blend in with fellow teenagers, he’s less than pleased not to mention at a loss as to how to act with kids his own age. At first, he keeps his distance, only observing the kids on the beach. Then an opportunity to get closer to their suspected mark presents itself. From there, he’s pushed by the Order to get closer to Ember to be certain she’s the Sleeper. As he does, he sees her more as a person and starts to open up to her. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever known and she makes him experience life in a way he never has before in his structured military existence. She teaches him to surf. Takes him to an arcade. Dances with him at a party. Makes his feel. Ember is so unlike everything the Order has taught Garrett about Dragons that he begins to question everything he’s ever known.
Garrett is not the only boy in town though. Enter Riley, a Rogue Dragon driven to pull hatchlings away from Talon, the Dragon organization that dictates every move a dragon makes in life. He’s the tall, dark, and mysterious to Garrett’s white knight. Disillusioned and disgusted with Talon and its amoral tactics, he teaches those young dragons he meets what it means to be truly free. Interestingly, he becomes almost obsessed with getting Ember out of the Organization. He meets with her and plants just enough doubt in her mind, plays just enough on her dislike of Talon’s future plans for her, that he eventually convinces her to go Rogue with him. I like Riley, but in my opinion, he has this major creeper vibe. Where Garrett genuinely begins to have feelings for her, it’s all instinct with Riley. He cares for Ember, I believe he truly does, but he’s always been told that dragons don’t have human feelings and don’t form attachments so to him, his attraction is simply because he’s a dragon and she’s a dragonell. Nothing more than natural mating instincts. Add to this is the fact that Riley is significant older than Ember in dragon years and it made the whole thing feel weird to me. She’s a Hatchling (the equivalent of a 16 to 17 year old teenager) and he’s a Juvenile (think mid to late 20s). Ember is attracted to him on a physical level that confuses her but her heart firmly belongs to Garrett so she’s pulled between the two guys. I also have to mention that there’s one scene on the beach between Cobalt (Riley’s real name) and Ember, after they escaped St. George, that didn’t sit well with me. I won’t go into detail but one reviewer said it felt “rapey” and I’d agree. Luckily it was very brief and Ember was smart enough to realize it before it got too far, effectively shutting Cobalt down.
While Ember is the main character, each chapter is told from the first person point of view. So one chapter may be told from Ember’s viewpoint then the next chapter will be told from Garrett’s or Riley’s. I liked this because it allowed me to get inside the heads of each character, understand what made them tick. With long sections of internal monologue, it definitely has more thought than action. From the other reviews I’ve read, many didn’t like that aspect. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. Additionally, Ms. Kagawa also repeats herself a lot. I mean A LOT! I don’t expect her to thesaurus the crap out of the story, that would completely seem pretentious, but at least switch up the words and phrases occasionally. In that same vein, thoughts and doubts are continuously circling and being rehashed in our characters’ minds. Their histories are restated frequently. At one point, I was kind of irritated and over the author reminding me for the 30th time that Garrett was a dragon slayer or that dragons don’t have human emotions like love. I GOT IT! At least a quarter of the story could’ve been removed had she not gone over the same material so much. It was unnecessary in my opinion and I think she’ll lose a lot of readers because of it.
Since this is a series, it obviously ends with a cliff hanger. Not a major one, we can quite easily know the outcome by looking at the synopsis of the next book, ‘Rogue’, but a cliff hanger nevertheless. Cliche? Absolutely. Also, we’re left with this vague sense that there’s something special about Ember and that’s why Talon has taken such an interest in getting her back. However, despite my fussiness over repetition, I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it enough to want to continue the series and see how it plays out. So keep an eye out for the review of ‘Rogue’. Hopefully, the writing has improved!
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Bookmarks!
(Photo Credit: Amazon)