Talon by Julie Kagawa

October 14, 2014 Reviews 1 ★★★

Talon by Julie KagawaTalon (Talon #1) by Julie Kagawa
Published: October 28th 2014 by HarlequinTeen
Format: eARC, 400 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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3 Stars

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

This book is about dragons! DRAGONS!! How excite!!

Dragons have been hiding amongst us for centuries, using their shifting abilities to choose human forms and assimilate with us. They get jobs as high ranking CEOs in our world, or return to TALON after their assimilation training to take up the fight against the Order of St. George, who have sworn to eliminate all blood-thirsty dragons from our world.

The world-building is commendable, and I loved getting to know the different techniques the dragons and the warriors of St. George have employed to stay hidden from humans. Some of it is clunky: there’s no real explanation of why there aren’t any female warriors in the Order of St. George, except that the lot of them are still two centuries behind everyone else. The Order doesn’t really have any technological advantage over humans either, which made me wonder why they don’t just set up fronts as security agencies or military support to increase their access to technology. And the dragons don’t get off easily either, but we’ll get to that later.

Let’s talk about the protagonists. We have Ember (who predictably has red hair), a dragon hatching (teenaged dragon!) who is learning to assimilate herself with humans before she can be assigned the job she will be doing for TALON for the rest of her life. She is undergoing training with her brother Dante, and they are unusual because dragons usually only give birth to one hatchling at a time. And then we have Garret (Garret Xavier Sebastian), a renowned soldier in the Order of St. George who basically cannot think for himself and has no life outside of killing dragons until he is sent to observe a group of teens, one of whom is suspected of being a dragon in disguise.

They begin rather stereotypically, with Garret being unable to make small-talk and not knowing how to behave at a party, and Ember being fiery and impetuous without really understanding (or caring) that the consequences of her actions are dire. While Garret went on to become interesting, Ember was just became whiny. Basically she didn’t want to learn how to be a dragon and defend herself against attacks of the Order, which seems ridiculous considering how everyone around her is constantly harping on about the dangers the Order pose to dragons. I don’t understand how she could be so unconcerned about her safety and her future. She also doesn’t like the idea of being given a job for the rest of her life (which is fair enough) but she has no idea what job she’s going to get so there seems to be no reason for her to rebel… yet. What if they’d picked the perfect job for her and she’d have loved it and would want to do it for the rest of her very long life?

Also, I smell a love triangle. There is the added complication of Riley, who is a rogue dragon. He just basically meanders into the plot and confuses everyone, but oddly I thought he was the most rounded-out and consistent character.

The romance in Talon totally creeped me out. It was sweet and made my heart flutter at times, but then I’d remember that Ember is a totally different species to Garret and the feeling would sour. Why? Because usually the paranormal romance sticks to sub-human creatures: vampires or werewolves or shifters etc who were once human, and can sometimes be human again. But Talon is a story about dragons who disguise themselves as humans! Even romances between humans and humanoid aliens aren’t as creepy as this situation, which vividly and nauseatingly reminds me of the myth of Pasiphae falling in love with the white bull and coupling with it by hiding inside a wooden cow, giving birth to the Minotaur. Ember is a CREATURE hiding inside a human-looking body, and she’s falling in love with a human. *shudder* All the creepy. All at once.

OH OH. There’s something even more awkward. Ember is a dragon wearing a human disguise, right? So she’s still a dragon. She’s not half-human like werewolves, she was never a human like vampires. SO WHY THE HELL DOES SHE HAVE A HUMAN SIDE AND A DRAGON SIDE? Her human side is attracted to Garret because of his perfect perfection and YA hero smirk and leather jacket, and her dragon side is attracted to Riley’s dragon (called Cobalt). Her dragon side doesn’t like Garret but gets over-excited any time Riley is around, responding to his innate dragon-ness. Ember’s inner dragon (yuck!) shudders and ripples and does all sorts of odd, vaguely sexual things when Riley is around. I found it disturbing.

As I mentioned earlier, dragons claim to be emotionless. Or at least unsentimental: we’re told in the first chapter many times that dragons don’t show emotion, don’t say hello and goodbye, and generally stick to business without socialising much. We’re told dragons are solitary, and do not fall in love, even when they mate. These are all biological claims about a whole species, that the dragons themselves are making (I’m leaving out all the misconceptions the Order of St. George have about the creatures that have sworn to eliminate). So when our main character starts emoting all over the place, I call it inconsistency. Oh sure, it wouldn’t have been much of a fun book if there wasn’t a forbidden romance, but it made no sense at all for a number of reasons.

Kagawa has chosen to tell this story in alternating first-person points of view. Part 1 only features chapters narrated by Ember and Garret, but Part 2 introduces Riley’s perspective as well, firmly cementing his placed as Boy 2 in the love-triangle of impending doom. I think this style worked very well, because it allowed us to become familiar with the stakes of the three groups: the dragons in TALON, the soldiers of St George, and the rogue dragons. Even though the characters themselves were problematic for me, I liked being inside their heads.

So. Talon could have amazed. I’m really disappointed with it because Kagawa did incredible things by subverting everything we knew about vampires and dystopia with The Blood of Eden series, but in Talon we’ve gone back to mediocre (and annoying) characters and shaky world-building that made me dislike the Iron Fey books. I’ll be sticking with the series, because I think (hope) it can be salvaged and because I can’t resist dragon stories, but I am left disappointed considering how excited I was about it.

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