Reviewed: August 6, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Elder Races, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 336 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Dark Fae King Urien is dead. In fact, after being plucked off a horse and eviscerated by an enraged dragon lord (Dragon Bound), he's really most sincerely dead. While no one could be happier for that fact than Niniane "Tricks" Lorelle, given that dear old Uncle Urien had slaughtered her entire family to steal the crown, there was a definite downside. Her time under the Wyr dragon lord's protection was over and she would have to come out of hiding to take her place as rightful heir to the throne. And that was a major bummer. Not only did she despise the idea of court politics, but the Dark Fae were notoriously anachronistic, and Niniane is a modern faerie with a shoe fetish and a deep love for all things fashion. Not exactly a match made in heaven.
Still, Niniane gave up her position and her home in NYC to go to Chicago and fulfill the obligation that she'd always known would be hers, and in so doing, finally achieve justice for her murdered family. She may not be thrilled, but she's got the noblest of intentions. Of course, that obligation would be considerably easier to meet if people would stop trying to kill her.
Tiago Black Eagle was still pissed that the faerie had been so adamant about rejecting protection from the Wyr sentinels who had spent the past two hundred years watching a young orphan grow into a capable woman, so when he got word that Niniane had disappeared after a confrontation with three Dark Fae males, and those three males were dead, alarm and concern goaded him into action. He didn't know Tricks as well as the others, as he was usually off fighting wars or managing Dragos' army unless the dragon lord specifically requested his presence, but the thought of something happening to her sent a strangely intense bolt of fury through him. And he was the best Wyr tracker in the world. How hard could it be to find one wee little faerie?
Not very hard at all, as it turns out, but Tiago's problems are far from over. Not only is Niniane determined to stomp on his last nerve with her obstinate refusal to let him guard her like he needs to, but a second assassination attempt puts her in danger on his watch. And this attempt threatens to do more than kill the feisty faerie. It could undermine any hope of peace between the Dark Fae and the Wyr...and end any hope of a relationship with the one woman that Tiago suspects may be his whole world.
Without a doubt, Dragon Bound is towards the top of my list of favorite reads this year. It's definitely in the top five. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this second book in the Elder Races series. I love the world that Harrison has created here, the identity and history of the races, and the concepts for their demesnes and cultures. Harrison also has a writing style that is truly fun to read, and she offers up a slick, modern narrative full of quirky, independent characters who are well developed and three dimensional...and a riot to read about.
And, okay, I admit it, I'm a sucker for überalpha males. You just don't get much more über than the alpha males in Harrison's books.
Still, while those elements were present in this book, and I did like Storm's Heart, there were some things that weren't pulled off as well as I'd hoped, and a few others that didn't work for me at all.
For all that I am a rabid fan of alpha male characters, I'm equally discriminating against weak females. Nothing makes me happier than a female character who will not only go toe to toe with the snarly male she loves, but who can also hold her own against their mutual enemies. Niniane had the first part down, but she was such a damsel in distress when it came to outside threat that I had a hard time connecting to her through the latter half of the book. She was always in danger, which was fine, danger equals lots of yummy potential for conflict, but Niniane was so damn...uncertain and worried about everything Dark Fae-related that she came off seeming very weak in comparison to even the surrounding human characters. And this is supposedly the same girl who was the PR person for a nasty-ass dragon lord. She should have kept the name Tricks, because at times Niniane didn't seem strong enough to oversee a tea party, let alone rule an entire race of people.
And her character wasn't the only issue that didn't quite thrill me. Where Harrison was deft at maintaining the sheer otherness of Dragos in the first book, both subtly and directly, and stayed true to his ancient, animal nature, I don't think that same level of attention was given to Tiago's character. That was a shame, because it was one of my favorite things about Dragon Bound and its absence here was a disappointment. I liked Tiago - don't get me wrong. I thought he was yummy and his protective possessiveness, along with the way he related to Niniane one-on-one, was great, but he wasn't quite as unique as Dragos had been.
I wasn't enamored with the plotline of the latter half of the book. I thought it dragged a bit in a couple of places and the major conflict at the end came about in a very contrived fashion, including character actions that didn't make a lot of logical sense given previous development. I also couldn't quite connect with some of the other aspects. The Fae politics weren't presented in a way that held my interest, and the mystery behind the assassination attempts was never particularly mysterious, especially after the antagonist was introduced as a character.
I wish there had been more explanation and development of the Dark Fae people and culture. I never got a clear idea - other than their ability as metallurgists - just what the Dark Fae people are all about, and I would have enjoyed having a wider cultural understanding. I would have been happier with the mystery taking more of a background roll as Niniane got reintroduced to her people, allowing the reader to learn more as well.
After all that, it probably sounds like I didn't like the book, and that's truly not the case. I did like it. In fact, had I not loved the first one as much as I did, I probably would have liked this one even more, but it's hard to follow up such a strong debut. Truth is, even with my minor complaints and personal reading preferences, Storm's Heart is still one of the more entertaining paranormal romances I've read this year. It may not be in my top five, but the strength of the world, the individuality and uniqueness in the characters, and my adoration of Harrison's writing style definitely secures this series a place as a favorite of mine. The fact that Serpent's Kiss is set to release in just two months is a good thing, too. I've pre-ordered it and look forward to revisiting the world of the Elder Races.
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