Gryphon’s Gate Publishing, $0.99, ISBN 978-0-9919229-9-4
Fantasy Romance, 2014
Shattered Spirits is the second book in CI Black’s Dragon Spirit series, but I can follow it just fine despite having never read the previous book first. However, the hero and the heroine met in the previous book, and there are several established relationships between various main characters here, so readers who don’t like playing keep-up may want to start with the first book before tackling this one.
Like most urban fantasy stories, there is a mythical beast built into the canon, and this time it’s dragons. I know, I know, but this one is a bit different. Here, dragons are immortal, and if one wants to dally with humans, there are laws governing how long such a relationship can last before the dragon has to break things off and leave. We don’t want humans to be aware of these critters’ existence, after all! So, our heroine Capri followed the law and left the man she loved, Eric, ages ago. Eric had long passed on from old age, but Capri has met a man that could have been Eric’s doppelganger: Detective Ryan Miller. Ryan is human, but he experiences visions of the future, so don’t worry, folks, the hero is still special.
His resemblance to Eric reopens old wounds in Capri’s heart, so maybe it is a good thing that she is distracted by bodies of decapitated dragons, or drakes as they are called here, popping up here and there. As part of the North American Clean Team (guffaw), it’s part of her job to look into this matters, so who has time to dwell on dead boyfriends, right?
Then again, dead bodies means cops to the scene, so she’s definitely bumping into Ryan quite often from now on. You can guess what will happen between them, I’m sure.
I have to say, despite the interesting back cover synopsis that has me thinking that this could be some intriguing action-driven urban fantasy romp, the actual story is quite slow for the most part, and focuses more on heavy breathing than murder solving. The mystery feels more like a vehicle to throw Ryan and Capri together, instead of a plot in its own right, and it is only resolved in a very rushed manner only late in the story. Let’s just say that this is a story that is more about the loins than anything else, so folks, adjust your expectations accordingly before turning to page one.
Capri is quite a disappointment too, as despite being immortal and hence having seen and done quite a lot of things, especially as part of a secret enforcer team of spooks, she seems bewilderingly shocked or taken by surprise by many turns of events in this story. Her character makes more sense as a newbie recruit than what she is written to be, and as a result, I can never take her seriously. She is also too emotional and impulsive, and my favorite is how she goes from all business with the medical officer about the dead bodies to “AAAH IS RYAN DATING THAT WOMAN? I AM SO JEALOUS OH NOES!” mode the moment Ryan walks in and acts friendly to that medical officer. Dead bodies? Dead dragons? Who cares – boyfriend matters are more important! Add in the author’s tendency to have Capri go all Buffy-speak now and then, and I really cannot take this character seriously as a supposedly capable member of the North American Clean Team (what a name).
Ryan is fine as a character, but then again, he’s a romance hero, so he’s allowed to behave like a professional cop instead of someone who spends most of the “investigation hour” dwelling on more important matters like not having a boyfriend and that’s like O-M-G end of the world.
So, at the end of the day, Shattered Spirits is cleanly written enough to be a pleasant, easily digestible read – hence the three oogies. But it never feels credible or authentic, what with it treating relationship issues as far more important than stopping someone who is going around killing people. A better balance between plot and romance would have allowed me to take this one more seriously.