Having swithered over Sophie Jordan's Firelight for some time now, I was afforded the opportunity to read and review it prior to it's UK release this month and it is a rare beast in the paranormal genre in that it has a premise that I've not actually seen before. Sort of. Let me explain...
Jacinda is a sixteen year old dragon and, also, a sixteen year old girl. A were-girl, if you will. I know, I know, this sounds a bit dubious, but bear with me... Draki are an ancient and somewhat endangered species who have evolved to the extent that they can take on human form in order to hide from the Enkros – a mysterious body of beings who covet the dragon's magical blood and gem-sniffing capabilities. These Enkros employ human hunters to do their dirty work and the Draki have been reduced to living in small hidden Prides and flying only at night. While all Draki have various skills, Jacinda is of particular importance as the last dragon with the ability to breath fire and her pride guard her fiercely. In fact, her pride have some rather icky ideas about her and pride prince, Cassian, creating some baby fire-breathers and Jacinda's mum decides that it's time to get out of Dodge before her daughter is, er, bred. The family take up residence in a desert town, where Jacinda's inner dragon starts to decline (Draki apparently prefer rain and mist – she should actually be living in Forks). That is until she comes across a mysterious, if familiar, boy at her new high school – Will, who is not only a hunter but also inexplicably drawn to Jacinda.
Jacinda is a likable protagonist. It helps that she spends the majority of the story in human form, getting her dragon on only at the most inopportune of times. She reads like a teenage girl, even when she is fully Draki. While this makes her relatable it didn't help me to get my head round her inner beast – to my understanding she is a dragon, who turns into a girl, but she read more like a girl who happens to be able to become a dragon. That being said, I have no personal experience of dragons and their inner monologues, so what do I know.... And this certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Jacinda is believably unhappy in her new home and her physical discomfort in the environment is extremely well written, as is her pain at the decline of her Draki self. I didn't always understand her thought processes, though. It takes her a long time to understand why her mother has removed her from the pride which I found strange, as Jacinda is more than aware of the pride's plan to use her as a breeding mare. However, when she does eventually get her head around her possible future she never wavers and I felt that her initial denial, while strange, was based only in her need for familiarity.
Will could have strayed towards one-dimensionality but luckily Sophie Jordan has imbued him with a little bit more depth than some love interests I've seen in paranormal. His attraction to Jacinda is believable, his disdain of his cousins admirable and his feelings towards his own family believably conflicted. However, I don't really understand why he chooses to be with Jacinda – particularly in light of the fact that his association with her, which inevitably draws her closer to his family, puts her in great danger. Other characters round out the story with varying success. I found Jacinda's mother and sister to be hugely irritating (perhaps intentionally). Her mother's denial over what she asks Jacinda to give up seems hugely blinkered and while I understand her motivations I would have thought that she would have had more patience with her daughter's struggle. Her sister I can understand a little better but her actions towards the end of the book really annoyed me as she seemed to be putting at risk the very lifestyle that she accuses Jacinda of preventing. Finally, Cassian is cast as the obligatory third wheel to Jacinda and Will's relationship. At first he seems utterly vile but through the book (which he appears in very little) there seems to be a vaguely more considerate side to his character emerging. He could go either way – at the moment he doesn't seem like a particularly credible love interest, but stranger things have happened.
Overall, Firelight is an enjoyable read. As far as paranormal romance goes, it perhaps isn't anything new but the characters have strong and believable voices and the original mythology goes a long way to helping this title stand out from the usual were-crowd. For those of you tired of wolves and vamps, then this may help to whet your appetite for paranormal once more. For those of you who love forbidden love, then this will also be right up your street. A sequel is in the making and the book ends with quite a cliffhanger – things could be about to get pretty ugly and that alone is enough to peak my curiosity about what comes next for Jacinda.
Firelight is published in the UK on 3rd March. Thank you to OUP for sending me this title to review.