April 12, 2015
Talon by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Julie Kagawa is one of my favorite young adult authors. I loved her "Blood of Eden" vampire trilogy (despite some problems I had with the worldbuilding) and snapped this up at the library as soon as it came in. This book is very different than the previous series; it's set in the modern day, and it features a clan of ancient shape-shifting dragons and their controlling group, Talon, who are trying to stay hidden in our society, and the paramilitary group, St. George, who hunts them.
There are three main characters and chapters written from each one's point of view: the hero, Ember, sixteen and spending her what could be called her last "free" summer, learning about human society before she has to buckle down and submit to whatever Talon plans for her; Garret, the "perfect warrior" from St. George sent to the same California seaside town as Ember, in search of Talon's reported "sleeper"; and Riley (aka Cobalt, his name is dragon form), and "rogue" who has broken with Talon entirely (as we find out, it's absolutely not the benevolent protective organization it pretends to be) and is making it his life's mission to rescue young hatchlings from Talon's clutches. (Ember also has a twin brother, Dante, who is completely taken in by Talon's brainwashing and betrays her. The epilogue is told from his point of view, where we find out Talon will use Dante to hunt Ember down.)
Right there, you can see the makings of a love triangle. It's quite prominent, almost overwhelming the plot at times. This is mainly why I gave this book three stars instead of four: I wanted to find out more about the dragons, the backstory of Talon and St. George, and why (as Ember herself asks about two-thirds of the way through the book) the two factions aren't talking to one another instead of killing each other. (I gather this will be addressed in the second book, Rogue. I certainly hope so.) Still, the love triangle does serve a necessary plot purpose: because Ember and Garret fall in love, they both grow as people, begin to question what they've been taught all their lives, and break out of their respective boxes.
Ember starts out pretending to be a typical teenage girl, almost irritatingly so; she's "more human than human," if you will. Because of the necessary setting up of the plot and characters, some will say the first half of the book is draggy. It kind of is, and but I would urge you to stick with it; in the last half of the book, the pacing and the plot definitely picks up steam. The ending is a cliffhanger that includes Garret turning his back on St. George to save Ember, and being taken in by the dragon-hunting organization to what will surely be his execution. Ember is determined to prevent that, and sets off to save him.
(Although, as with the "Blood of Eden" books, I have a few nits to pick about the worldbuilding. Specifically, in the explosive climax, Ember, Riley and others shift in broad daylight and go flying off, and Ember, Riley and her trainer, the Talon assassin Lilith, fight on a cliff by the beach. True, this California town is depicted as being isolated, but come on. What about Google Earth, various government spy satellites, and passing ships? That fight should have been all over Twitter and Instagram, and probably filmed by someone and uploaded to YouTube as well.)
This book has its problems, but it's worth your time. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
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