by Coreene Callahan, fantasy (2011)
Montlake Romance, $11.95, ISBN 978-1612182728
I have not followed JR Ward's The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, as I couldn't get past the author's butchering of the heroes' names, so I will just take the word of those who have when they say that Coreene Callahan's Dragonfury series is a wannabe that switched out vampires for dragons. I can't say whether this is true, as I don't see myself reading any book by JR Ward anytime soon.
I can say, however, that Fury Of Fire is a veritable field of landmines. There are so many potential hot button issues here and a slew of unfortunate implications, I don't know whether to be in awe of the author or to wonder what she is thinking to have the audacity to come up with this thing.
Let me start with the premise of the series. At the surface, this one seems like another generic "band of brothers" series. We have the Nightfury dragons who serve to protect humans. Why? This is where it gets rather... controversial.
You can say that they are protecting humans from the evil Razorback dragon clan, but you see, these dragons live off sexual energy. Therefore, the Nightfury dragons - the guys, which are the ones that matter because they will sell the books, are all uniformly hot and sexy and powerful - open the ubiquitous night club thing, where they would then lure willing human females into their, er, arms and feed off them. Then they wipe off these women's memory of the encounter.
If that isn't intrusive enough, these guys need to mate during a time of the year called the Meridian. Apparently the energies are aligned perfectly at this time and, I don't know, their testicles finally drop or something. These dragons will go crazy until they mate and knock up a woman. And here's the good part: the woman will die of childbirth down the road, because no woman can survive giving birth to a dragon.
This is the best part: it is never made clear that these women are aware that they will die when they deliver the killer baby from hell. Our heroine Myst Munroe certainly doesn't, and our hero Bastian the Mommy Murderer thoughtfully informs her only after he has knocked her up. But let's look at the bright side: these good dragons make the mothers-to-be as comfortable as possible during their final days. Isn't that thoughtful of them?
The Razorbacks apparently prefer to take unwilling women and rip the babies out of these mothers' womb, but I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding why I should see the Nightfury dragons as the good guys here. Can't we humans just band together and use our weapons of mass destruction to blow these mother-killer penises from hell straight back to the abyss? Am I supposed to view the romance between Myst and Bastian as a good thing? I've seen the Alien and Species movies - I don't find the idea of a monster baby bursting out of its mother's womb a romantic celebration.
If you still want to know the plot, well, it's a pretty familiar one. Nurse Myst Munroe takes her job so personally that every patient's welfare affects her dearly, so like every creepy, er, doting nurse, she decides to visit one of her patients, only to find her dead. She didn't know it then, but this dead woman was carrying a dragon baby. Bastian finds her and decides to take her under his care, and when the biological instincts kick in, his guilt at having to kill this woman is quickly forgotten. He knocks her up, spends a while wringing his hands until he feels compelled to tell her that his baby will make her a little bit dead, and then he winces when she gets mad and gives him the finger.
But Myst, who starts out a pretty spirited heroine with some spine, needs someone to save her from the bad guys, so she turns into a weeping mess wondering whether she will ever earn Bastian's love and is so grateful by the last page that he does love her. Yes, the woman discovers that her baby daddy neglected to tell her of the killer baby growing in her womb until it's too late, but oh, she's weeping and going all crazy because she wants his love so bad. That's pretty sick, if you ask me.
And, apparently, if their bond is strong enough, Myst would survive childbirth. Do I even have to mention the unfortunate implication here? That women who die in childbirth aren't loved enough by their baby daddies? I wonder whether this book - this series - is some kind of twisted cautionary tale to women everywhere not to put out until they are really sure that the guy is their true love.
Much of this story is familiar territory, dedicated to cater to fans of "breeding pen" type of paranormal romps, where women are basically nothing more than cattle to forever bear the heroes' offspring, and where love is basically some kind of biological instinct to mate. Only, this story features heroes who pretty much leave behind a trail of dead women every year until they find their true love that won't die on them. See what I mean about the author having the audacity to actually write this kind of thing down? Seriously, a part of me admires the author for having the guts to come up with such a story, especially considering that she's a woman, but as a reader who paid money for this book, I don't know whether I want to stab my middle finger at this book or take a bath because, damn, I feel a mixture of disgust and shame for somewhat enjoying this story.
Yes, I do enjoy this story somewhat, I'm afraid. It's mostly because of the train wreck factor - I turned the pages basically to figure out just how far the author would go, and there is some kind of macabre entertainment to be had just reading these... things. While the author has a noticeable pattern of following a few longer paragraphs with two or three short single sentences (a pattern that becomes distracting after a while), her pacing is solid and for a long time, Myst is actually a pretty interesting and likable heroine despite her unfortunate name. Still, the whole thing is just too much when it comes to the overload of unfortunate implications of gender roles, unhealthy portrayal of childbirth and female sexuality, and the sordid emphasis on these guys using females solely to feed and breed.
I also wonder whether the author has backed herself into a corner with the whole mother-killer penises from hell angle, because the next books in the series would probably feature the same type of drama. And if they don't, then there would only be more unfortunate implications involving women who are willing to die just to bear the hero's child.
Either way, I have to hand it to Coreene Callahan - I haven't seen a train wreck of this amazing magnitude in a long time, and it's an entertaining disaster to boot. I'm inclined to give this book the passing grade because of this train wreck factor, but at the same time, I'm warning you guys: this book is trying to pass off monsters that enable mass matricide of human women as sexy guys to sigh over, so don't blame me if you still pick this book up and have your world turned into a never-ending Tales From The Crypt episode.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: