Never Deal With Dragons
At RWA, I heard Never Deal With Dragons described as a debut combining urban fantasy with a touch of humor. While I’ll admit to suffering from a bit of series fatigue, I do have a soft spot for unique-sounding urban fantasy and so I tried this one out of curiosity. While there was a critical piece of the story that strained logic a bit much, I still had lots of fun reading this book and I enjoyed the author’s voice.
In telling her tale of Myrna and her struggles as a dragon-human mediator at DRACIM, the author has a distinctive voice that manages to tell her story vividly while also being funny and just a bit snarky. At times, it reminded me of Julie Kenner’s Carpe Demon, which I loved. The basic setup is this: The story takes place in Tulsa after World War III. During the war, a science experiment mishap led to the creation of dragons, which not surprisingly turned out stronger than humans. A truce has now been reached, and a ruling system set up. Parts of the world are controlled by various dragon lords, but humans have certain rights and those who are able to understand dragonspeak are called into service to work with DRACIM, the organization overseeing dragon-human relations.
Dragonspeaker Myrna started as an idealistic mediator on the rise in DRACIM. However, an incident in which her trusted long-term boyfriend Trian makes off with sensitive work documents gets her demoted. So, when Trian shows up in Myrna’s office out of the blue one day, her barely restrained hostility toward him makes perfect sense. As Myrna finds herself sucked into the intrigue of a dragon world on the verge of war, she gets the opportunity to prove herself by joining a diplomatic mission. Naturally, she will have to find a way to work with Trian, who is turning out to be a bit more than he initially seemed.
The story is convincingly told, no small feat when an author is building a world full of dragons, and I found myself flipping the pages on my reader pretty rapidly. Given the level of Trian’s betrayal, the tension between him and Myrna felt quite believable. He knew he had hurt Myrna and regretted it and even though the story is told in first person by Myrna, readers still get a good feel for how the betrayal and its fallout affect Trian. As more and more of his previous history with Myrna comes out, he looks like more and more of a jerk. Yet he has a conscience and he goes from being a possibly redeemable jerk to eventually hitting hero material status.
Myrna is a clever mediator and quick on her feet, so many of the scenes between Myrna and the various dragons are fun to read. However, in the latter part of the book, the identity of someone behind the villainy in the story starts becoming readily apparent. Unfortunately, Myrna chooses that moment to suddenly go from sharp negotiator to TSTL heroine. And yes, that was a letdown. It just did not fit in with everything that the author had previously told readers Myrna was. As a reader, I can buy that the author has to sustain tension and keep the story going on for a bit, but it still stinks to watch a likable heroine lose IQ points in rather unbelievable fashion when the pressure’s really on.
Even so, I have to admit that I liked watching Myrna and Trian get together, and aside from the issues I mention and an ending that seemed a bit too abrupt, I really liked the story. The romance is not always front and center in this story, but since it’s urban fantasy, I didn’t really expect that. Christensen does good world-building, and I’ll be curious to see what she develops for her next book.