Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Genre: Young Adult, paranormal romance, high school dramaz, dragons
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: Jacinda is a draki, which means she’s descended from dragons and can take either human or dragon form. Even among the draki she is special, because she’s the first fire-breather seen for generations.
She lives in a small, secret community of other draki (known as the “pride”), until one day she gets busted flying during the day (major draki no-no for keeping-secret purposes) and the pride reveals sinister plans for her.
Jacinda’s mother takes her and her twin sister out into the human world to hide, where Jacinda juggles trying to fit in with “normal” people, struggling to keep her draki half alive, and a forbidden romance with sexy-but-sensitive dragon hunter Will.
I just want to say this: I really did actually enjoy reading this book. A lot. And I am definitely recommending it. That being said, I have so many complaints I don’t even know where to begin.
I’ll start out with the positive stuff: Sophie Jordan’s writing is borderline gorgeous. I say borderline because frequently she lays it on just a little too thick (Jacinda could hardly take a breath without the air “sawing through her lips”), but I thought it was worth it for lines like, “Low-rising mist drifts off liquid mountains floating against a purple-bruised sky.” Beautiful. Overly poetic. Not so believable as coming from the mind of a teenage girl like Jacinda (you’ll see what I mean by that in a bit). But still beautiful.
I also really enjoy the draki mythology. There are various kinds of draki, and of course their physical descriptions are lovely. There’s all kinds of interesting tidbits, like how draki are sort of bound to fertile earth (which is why Jacinda’s mother decides to move them to a desert, where the draki part can’t survive), and each draki family has a set of gemstones that give them life energy (I like that play on typical treasure-hoarding dragon lore).
What I find most interesting is that clearly the draki are on the way out. There are apparently several prides around the country, but they are all small and disconnected from each other. And they’re being mercilessly hunted down by these hunters who sell draki parts to mysterious evil people(?) called “enkros.” I’m interested to see whether something can be done to save them (no doubt centering on our main characters), or if they’ll continue to fade away.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of love-at-first-sight-omg-I-suddenly-can’t-live-without-you romances, but if you ARE into that sort of thing, you will really, really like this one. (I’m looking at you, Twilight fans.) Jacinda first encounters Will while he’s out hunting and catches her in draki-form, and they have this really lovely interaction in a cave where he decides to spare her life. Later, when she inevitably ends up going to the same high school as him, Will has no clue as to her true identity but feels drawn to her. And to Jacinda, despite knowing exactly who and what he is, Will is the only thing that keeps her draki from dying away completely. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s super hot and muscly and likes to talk about his feelings.)
So far so good, right? Now let’s take a look at our fiery-haired protagonist. *Ahem* Jacinda is the most self-obsessedwhinyinconsideratebrattiestmegabitch ever.
I mean, when she gets caught breaking the rules the pride wants to MARRY her to this other dude so she can make FIRE BREATHING BABIES. And she’s only 16! Naturally, her mom decides to pack up and go on the run, and Jacinda can do nothing but COMPLAIN ABOUT IT and BLAME HER MOTHER’S “RANDOM WHIMS.”
They move to a tiny desert town and start pretending to be normal humans, and in order to keep up that lifestyle, Jacinda’s mom has to get a shitty job at a casino and work basically 24 hours a day. It’s a miserable situation, and she’s clearly doing it out of love for her daughters. But Jacinda hardly takes notice of her mother’s situation, instead focusing on how awful a time she has fitting in at her new high school, all the while BEGGING TO GO BACK TO THE PRIDE. WHICH WANTS HER TO MAKE BABIES AT 16. Gimme a break.
Then there’s her sister, Tamra. She’s seriously down-played, but I found her to be the most interesting character in the book. Unlike her superstar sister, Tamra never manifested into a draki, so she’s spent her whole life as the only human living among dragons. When they have to run away, she sees it as her chance to finally have a normal life.
Call me crazy, but from the get-go I was so much more interested in Tamra’s story than Jacinda’s. What’s it like to her suddenly to be surrounded by other humans, to be able to blend in? Does she connect with them as easily as she seems to? Is she willing to forgo her heritage entirely in order to be “normal”?
Anyway, besides Jacinda’s rampant ego, I was also seriously annoyed by the inconsistency of her feelings. She’ll spend paragraphs complaining about her life and how she blames her mother, and then throw in a line like, “I feel bad that my mom is working so hard.” Or she’ll express clear distress at how much better Tamra is doing at school, and how her sister is so happy when she is so miserable, and then she’ll say something like, “I have to try my best for Tamra. It’s not just about me.” My response in these situations was a resounding, “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.”
Jacinda’s moods are so mercurial I can’t decide if it’s inconsistent writing on the author’s part, or an ingeniously realistic rendering of the thoughts and feelings of a hormonally-imbalanced teenager. For now I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and assume a little of both. It remains to be seen in the sequel(s). If Jacinda manages to go through some transformative process and do something truly selfless, then I’ll believe everything she’s ever said as a narrator. At the moment, throwing in those brief moments of understanding and compassion seem to me like the author’s (failed) attempts to make the reader sympathize with Jacinda, when she is otherwise ragingly unsympathetic.
-Will (If you’re into guys who are perfect except for their tortured past. Psh, whatever.)
-The protagonist makes you want to strangle her
Firelight may be frustrating, but it’s a fun, quick read that upon finishing I found I’d enjoyed quite a lot. Looking forward to the next one and to finding out whether or not Jacinda can make me like her. She’s got a lot of work to do.