Soul of Smoke, by Caitlyn McFarland (Dragonsworn Trilogy, Book 1)
Publisher: Carina Press/Harlequin (July 27, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 95,000 words
Genre: Modern-day Fantasy Romance (M/F)
Rating: 4 out of 5
* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Summary: On a hike deep in the Rocky Mountains, Kai Monahan watches as a dozen dragons–actual freaking dragons–battle beneath a fat white moon. When one crashes nearly dead at her feet and transforms into a man, Kai does the only thing a decent person could: she grabs the nearest sword and saves his life.
My Thoughts: This is the kind of fantasy that I love to read! Instead of another exhausting story about dragons and magic, this is a revitalized look at the genre, taking the dragons out of the fantasyland and sticking them smack-dab in the middle of the real world.
Because it’s the first book in a trilogy, Soul of Smoke spends a lot of time establishing the characters, the history, and the conflict. It’s much-needed in a world this complex, where there are different types of dragons, clans that number in the dozens, and two warring factions competing for power of the entire species.
In the midst of it all is Kai, a college girl who loves rock-climbing and cherishes her freedom. When she finds herself trapped among the dragons– for her own safety, they claim– she rebels immediately. I really loved stubborn, fierce and brave Kai! She’s clearly terrified, but she refuses to back down in the face of equally stubborn and fierce dragons. And she’s such a fully-imagined character, right down to the little quirks, like fiddling with her carabiner when nervous.
Of course there’s a romance as well, between Kai and the handsome Rhys, who she rescued that night on the mountain. Dragons form instant bonds when they touch their soulmate, or heartsworn, and an accidental touch between Kai and Rhys sets off the first part of this bonding. It’s something neither of them wants, but their souls yearn for one another nonetheless. Heads up, though: despite this novel being published by a Harlequin imprint, you won’t find any naughty bits within. Maybe in Book 2?
The only place this story suffers is in the detail; that is, there’s too much of it. McFarland has done a lot of work on her world-building, but at times it seems like she’s trying to force-feed her mythology to the readers. It didn’t happen often, but I think sometimes there was a bit too much information being thrown in at once.
But overall this was a fun novel, and the start of what I expect to be a really fantastic and original trilogy. It makes me want to go outside and look up at the sky, in the hopes of seeing the silhouette of wings!
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