Friday, 22 August 2014

Review: Darkest Flame

by Donna Grant
Rating: 3/5

The Dark Kings have fought for centuries to preserve their dragon magic. But one of the most powerful warriors of his kind will be put to the ultimate test. Is he strong enough to resist his greatest temptations? Or will he be forced to surrender—body and soul?
Denae Lacroix is a beautiful MI5 agent on a deadly mission. Sent to the Scottish Highlands to spy on the mysterious Dreagan Industries, she discovers too late that she’s been set up—as human bait. She is an irresistible lure for a man who has not seen or touched a woman for centuries. He is a man with a destiny—and a desire—that could destroy them both...
It’s been twelve hundred years since Kellan has walked among humans—and there’s no denying the erotically charged attraction he feels for Denae. But as a Dragon King, he is sworn to protect his secrets. Yet the closer he gets to this smart, ravishing woman, the more her life is in danger. All it takes is one reckless kiss to unleash a flood of desire, the fury of dragons... and the fiercest enemy of all.

Darkest Flame is the fourth entry and the first full-length book in the Dragon Kings series. It’s also the number one in the series. Donna Grant is an author I’ve been reading since her first Dark Sword book. Unfortunately Darkest Flame wasn’t really a ‘wow’ book for me, so I’m going to try a review of an average book. [Any extra ranting is as a result of research I did for this review which made me very angry].

I’ll admit most of my issues with Darkest Flame are as a result of the heroine. Specifically her country of birth, not her personality or actions. For some reason despite the series being set in Scotland, all four of the heroines so far have been American, including Denae. Look I get it America is a big market, but this is getting ridiculous. I’m not from the UK or US so this isn’t national pride, the stretch for Denae being American actually really limits the ability to suspend disbelief.

But let me really explain why this is a stretch. Denae is an American who works for MI6. Background: The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) is also known as MI6 its WW2 nickname, so it’s the wrong name to start with. SIS is Britain’s foreign intelligence agency. Who employs someone who is not British for British foreign intelligence? And lest you think I’m just some kind of anti-American xenophobe, Denae think of herself as American, not American-British, or anything. She’s not even a British citizen, she’s American. Plus towards the end of the book she goes home to TEXAS (sorry Texans it’s not your fault).

Also still on the ‘that is not how SIS or MI6 works’ train, Denae goes undercover and on missions within the UK. Do you know whose job domestic intelligence in the UK is? The Secret Service, AKA MI5. This is like having the CIA and NSA confused. And worst of all? I thought MI6 was the real name, I found this out from wiki-freaking-pedia when I tried to check that MI stood for Military Intelligence, this is less than basic research.

So Denae gets burned by one of MI6’s factions and set up as bait in one of Dreagon’s (Dreagon is the whiskey brewery in Scotland the Dragon Kings live in) caves. She kills her attacking partner but suffers a mortal wound herself. The incident wakes Kellan, King of the Bronze Dragons, who shifts and saves her by taking her to Con.

So, I’m still kind of mad about the whole MI6 thing, because according to Wikipedia (basic research, thrill) SIS had about 3000 employees in 2012/13. And the SS had around 3,500 for the same period. That’s not a lot of employees for two factions in the agency, let alone the multitudes that this book implies.

So Kellan saved Denae’s life by taking her to Con, the King of Kings (and a prime asshat). He only partially healed her so they could interrogate her. She tells them everything, and they don’t believe her and then when Henry (an MI6 agent from apparently nowhere, I tried to find him in the novellas but couldn’t) confirms it they eventually conclude that they have to hide her from MI6. But first a combined team of MI6 agents and Dark Fae attack.

Yes, the Fae are in this book, no there isn’t any ambiguity between Dark and Light Fae. No they are never referred to as either Seelie or Unseelie. And yes, they’re from Ireland. I’m coming back to this later.*

The Dark Fae collaborating with humans is Bad newstm so the Dragon Kings finally decide to protect Denae. They take her to the Isle of Raasay, or try but are again attacked by Dark Fae and MI6 agents. The MI6 agents are killed but the Dark Fae capture Denae and Kellan.

The eventually escape with help from Rhi**, Phelan and Tristan, the first two being characters crossing over from the Dark Warriors series. Kellan then acts like a git and the misunderstanding ensues.

Okay: Kellan. He’s not awful, but he’s a bit like a late 90’s hero who was betrayed by a woman and hates all women now, but Denae changes his mind. Except a friend of his was betrayed by a woman not him and it made him hate all humans, especially women. This is because the loss of his dragon made him a dick sad. At one point, after Denae told him about her parents’ death and her sister’s disappearance (money on her being alive in the Fae realm), he says this:

“The dragons are gone. Forever. You can no’ possibly know what it means to lose something you love.”
“Right, because you Kings have a monopoly on grief, sorrow, and anger.” Her words were clipped and full of annoyance.
He took a step toward her. “How would you feel if your family was sent away and you were left behind?”

Those three sentences are straight from the book. Denae then rightly shuts him up. Kellan is a little mopey and takes it out on Denae for far too long.

*The Fae are new in the Dragon Kings series, and rather than more Dragon Kings world building, we get information about the Fae. The Fae all live in a realm which can only be accessed in Ireland (they technically aren’t allowed in our world). Now, the Irish do have a lot of folk tales about faeries, but light and dark is a Norse elven thing, and Ireland is Seelie and Unseelie court(s). And well Fae, in Ireland have been done to death.

**Rhi is a Light Fae who once loved a Dragon King, but it all went to shit. She’s not a bad or annoying character, she is in this book a lot however. This is book one, the first introduction to the Dragon Kings series for some people an not only is it full of cliché as balls Fae, but characters from previous series. Rhi, Phelan and Charon are all characters with originating in previous series (Dark Warriors, and Dark Sword). Now the Dark Warriors have crossed over with the Dragon Kings before, but not really in the Dragon Kings’ series and either way, as novellas the previous books aren’t guaranteed to have been read.

Final Verdict: While the previous novellas suffered for brevity, Darkest Flame’s length is poorly used. World building time is spent on a species other than the Dragon Kings, and with characters newcomers won’t know. The heroine’s American birth and career are a stretch too far and MI6 should’ve been googled before the second draft. The hero isn’t as likeable as he should’ve been and time spent away from the main couple doesn’t help. Not a stand-alone, recommended for fans of the previous Dragon Kings novellas who have read the Dark Warriors series.

Currently Listening: Sarah – Eskimo Joe

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