Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3161-1
Fantasy Romance, 2015
Feel the Burn is… I think it’s the ninth book in the Dragon Kin series? I have lost count, oops, but it’s definitely not a newbie-friendly book in that everybody that has ever appeared in previous books shows up here and things can get pretty chaotic. It can still be tackled by newbies, but they have to put some extra effort in keeping track of who is who, as everyone can seem similar after a while. Well, the good news here is that this one manages to bring back some of the magic after the lackluster previous book. This one is more tightly plotted and the hero and the heroine manage to hold their own very well amidst the large cast of characters.
At the rate things are going, the Southland dragons are going to win the war against everyone else simply by breeding with everyone else to run over the entire world one of these days. Although, technically, Gaius Domitus is the prince and joint-ruler of the Iron Dragons, but these dragons are allied with the Southland dragons, so they are one big happy family now. Our heroine is Kachka, the sister of the heroine of the previous book, and Kachka gave up her place in the Black Bear Riders to protect her sister against their hateful mother (who is now dead, killed by Annwyl the Bloody in the previous book). Now, she tries to live with her sister’s new people, but she is bored and restless. All that comfortable living is most unbecoming to a wild lady of the Steppes of the Outerplains. When Queen Annwyl tasks her to lead a ragtag team to move out and cut down the troops of that cult that is trying to kill Annwyl and her mixed-blood children, Kachka is more than happy to accept.
Gaius met Kachka in the previous book, and in this one, he finds himself strangely charmed by this tough warrior woman who doesn’t seem to be impressed by him being who and what is, and who can also push all his hot buttons with ease. And he likes having his hot buttons pushed! Their paths diverge when Kachka goes off to kill people while Gaius goes off to kill those other people that aren’t going to be killed by Kachka, but fate will make sure that they will keep bumping into one another amidst the joyous carnage they are carving in their paths. This is a beautiful tale of murderous, violent lunatics in love, and I adore every minute these two crazies are sparring, fighting, flirting, and shagging their brains out.
Feel the Burn follows the pattern of previous books – the first half is basically raunchy comedy and mayhem in the happy Southland domicile, and the second half is pure high-octane violence and carnage. There is a bipolar quality to this pattern, as these two halves can sometimes feel like they belong to two different genres. The raunchy comedy is fun and bawdy, but the downside to all this low down and dirty tomfoolery is that the main characters are so sitcom-y that I have a hard time imagining that they are in any way competent enough to fend off the bad guys. By this time, the plot has moved – slowly, but surely – to have a big bad villain, but this villain is so spottily portrayed that I have a hard time seeing her as a fully-drawn memorable character. She’s more of a filler villain.
But my goodness, the second half! It’s glorious as both the teams led by the hero and the heroine gleefully disembowel, lop off heads, and do all kinds of stuff that will make all those slasher movie villains go green in envy, and I really wish the author would tone down the raunchy comedy a little – just a little – and spend more time developing the fantasy elements of her series a little bit more. We are almost ten books into the series – we are, right? – so it’d be nice if we have a strong and memorable villain to provide a solid story arc over the next few books.
The romance is delightful, as in many ways Kachka is a female version of Conan the Barbarian. Conan views women as weak, loses interest in them after boffing them, and in the meantime, destroy everything in his path with cheerful nonchalance. Kachka is the 180 version – she thinks women are stronger than men, loses interest in men after boinking and dumping them, and don’t stand in her way if you want your body to stay intact at the end of the day. Gaius is a civilized gentleman – which is to say, he only brutally murders his enemies while being adorably sweet and cocky with Kachka. These two make a glorious bloodthirsty couple, almost on par with Annwyl and her husband. Speaking of Annwyl, it is remarkable how she manages to remain one of the most memorable scene-stealers even after all this while, although her creepy daughter comes close in this book in matching her. It’s pretty clear that the author adores Annwyl, and isn’t it grand that I feel the same way too, heh.
I was feeling a bit tapped out after the previous book, but Feel the Burn has me feeling all revved up to party with this bunch of adorable lunatics again!