Monday, May 7, 2012

[review] Thea Harrison - Dragon Bound (Elder Races, #1)

Title: Dragon Bound
Author: Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races, #1
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Format read: Mass market paperback
Source: Personal collection
Buy from: AmazonBarnes & NobleBookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads):
Half-human and half-wyr, Pia Giovanni spent her life keeping a low profile among the wyrkind and avoiding the continuing conflict between them and their dark Fae enemies. But after being blackmailed into stealing a coin from the hoard of a dragon, Pia finds herself targeted by one of the most powerful-and passionate-of the Elder races. 
Random paragraph:  "She turned her back to him and knelt at the stream, already consumed with the thought of scouring the Goblin stink off her body. Self-consciousness tried to take over as she stripped off her ruined T-shirt and filthy bra, but she squashed it. At least it wasn't broad daylight. He had no doubt seen thousands of naked women before. (Thousands? No, definitely not the time to go there.) Nothing mattered more than getting that stink off her." (p. 127, mass market paperback edition)

Thoughts: I've seen this recommended often to fantasy fans who want to try out paranormal romance, and this was so. much. fun.

Where to begin?

I liked this. I really, really, really liked this. I'm not much of a romance reader -- I'm slowly dipping my toe in, but haven't had much luck so far -- but I bought this after seeing all the praise. And it was worth it.

First of all, the premise. Dragos is a New York City billionaire bigshot. He also happens to be a dragon shifter. And you can't be a dragon without a hoard, right? And if you're a dragon with a hoard, there are fewer things you despise than being stolen from. Even if it's something like this:
I'm sorry, the message said.
The theft was a violation of privacy. It was an unbelievable act of impudence and disrespect. Not only that, it was--baffling. He was murderous, incandescent with fury. He was older than sin and could not remember when he had last been in such a rage.
He looked at the paper again.
I'm sorry I had to take your penny. Here's another to replace it.
The heroine, Pia, is being blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend, Keith. He knows about her half-Wyr heritage, manifesting in her power to unlock doors, so he gives her a charm and tells her to steal something from Dragos' hoard, threatening to reveal her true nature if she fails. And as a giant "fuck-you" to him, out of all the treasures she could have taken, she makes off with a 1962 U.S. copper penny.

Relative worth doesn't matter to Dragos. That penny was his. So when Pia flees the city, knowing she's totally screwed, he stalks after her. Unfortunately, he intrudes on Elven territory while doing so, and sparks a whole lot of conflict.

Pia is fantastic. If you've ever wanted to read about a heroine with agency, who can stand up for herself, this is great for that. Whenever Dragos tries pulling the alpha-male card, she smacks him right down.
"Dragos," she said, speaking with care because he was still so upset. "You've got to stop giving me orders."
No matter how gently she said it, it was still like a spark to dry tinder.
"Fuck you," he snapped. He thrust his face down to hers, eyes flaring to lava and features hardening. "You're mine. And you. Can't. Leave."
"Whoa, there. I don't know what to say to you. You're like some stalker guy on steroids." She threw back her hands and rolled her eyes. "You are aware, aren't you, that you can't have slaves any longer. You know, abolition. Big war. Happened a hundred and forty, forty-five years ago."
The two eventually fall for each other, and throughout the course of their relationship, they have some bumps... which they resolve, through conversation. This is something I rarely see, and it's convinced me that I must've been reading the wrong books. Instead of the hero calling the shots and the heroine rolling over and taking it, Pia and Dragos discuss their problems and their future; what started as unequal footing slowly becomes more balanced, and it's really a joy to read.
There she was, inside of her skin, and she was more of a mystery to him than ever. It was driving him crazy. Curiosity gripped him, and without realizing he was taking a momentous step, he asked, "What do you want?"
Surprise lit her face. She tilted her head and smiled at him. Did she dare to have the kind of courage he had and just say what she wanted out loud? "I guess I want what a lot of people want. I want to feel safe," she said, lifting one shoulder. "I want to have a say in my own life. I want to be loved. I don't want to live this half life of not being either human or Wyr. I wish I were one thing or the other. I want to belong somewhere."
The one thing that nagged at me while reading this was the inconsistency of Dragos' voice. At the beginning, he is incredibly stiff and formal; by the middle, he's very modern, making pop culture references and dropping the f-bomb all over the place. And he'd sometimes sway back and forth. It smoothed out by the end, but it was still rather jarring.

Overall, if you're despairing at the state of popular romance books with passive heroines, or if you're a non-romance reader who wants to try something outside of your comfort zone, give this a shot. It's witty, humorous, and clever. I'm glad I did.

Overall: 4 stars.

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