Book Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

talon

Title: Talon
Author: Julie Kagawa
Pub Date: 25th January 2015
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Obtained: Review Copy
Rating: 3.5/4*

‘There are a dozen soldiers hiding in that maze All hunting you. All looking to kill you.’
To the outside world Ember Hill is an ordinary girl, but Ember has a deadly secret. A dragon hiding in human form, she is destined to fight the shadowy Order of St.George, a powerful society of dragonslayers. St. George soldier Garret is determined to kill Ember and her kind. Until her bravery makes him question all he’s been taught about dragons. 

Now a war is coming and Garret and Ember must choose their sides – fight to save their bond or fulfil their fate and destroy one another.

Talon is unlike any other dragon book I’ve read. In Kagawa’s world, dragons are able to take on human forms, and are trained to assimilate into human society in order to protect their species. We meet Ember and her twin brother Dante, both of whom are soon to complete their training from Talon – the dragon establishment – and the final stage of this is to mix with humans and not raise suspicion. This story is told in multi-narrative – we hear Ember’s first person point of view. a rogue dragon called Riley’s point of view as well as from the perspective of a human dragonslayer, Garret.

Ember was a brilliant character – funny, adorable and with that extra bit of sass, I couldn’t help but root for her in this novel. Character wise, I feel that Kagawa has written another solid character, one that I can relate to (minus the being a dragon part…) and one that I feel really jumps off the page. The other characters in this book were brilliant also – Riley was one of my favourites and of course, so was Garret!

Talon‘s pacing was also one of the highlights. I flew through this book! Bearing in mind that there are more than 400 pages in this book, I felt that it was the perfect length, and the story progressed to an exciting and engrossing conclusion.

Now, I feel that I can’t properly review this book without mentioning Julie Kagawa’s unusual take on dragons. I’ve read books before, namely Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, where dragons have the ability to change into human forms. However, these books have always been traditionally fantasy in genre; meaning, they have a historical fantasy setting, in an alternate world/time period. In Talon, Kagawa surprised me completely – by setting this in modern day America, in a beach front town called Crescent Beach. I feel like this was a huge risk – and it paid off as a whole.

Talon was a thrill ride from start to finish. With the alternate point of views, from Ember, the dragon, to Garret, the soldier of St George, an elite group of dragon slayers, a reader’s sympathies were pulled in many different directions – but one theme remained the same throughout: the discovery that Talon was in fact not what it appeared to be. Talon was an extremely interesting facet to the story. Ember and her twin, Dante, were trained by Talon individually during their time at Crescent Beach and Ember starts to suspect that Dante is being taught something quite different than what she is. I may be mistaken, I don’t think we ever discovered what was happening during Dante’s training sessions, which adds to the mystery further. And with that Epilogue, the next book (called Rogue, out April this year!) is sure to delve deeper into Dante and the deceit of Talon.

And what is a YA Fantasy novel without a romantic refrain? The love story between Garret and Ember was AH-MAZING. I was completely rooting for them the whole time. My one complaint with these two was that their love story was predictable – though I enjoyed every moment reading about it!

There is a sort-of love triangle in Talon – between Ember, Riley and Garret – and this was one of my main (minor) reservations with this book. I loved Garret. I loved Riley. And importantly, I loved Ember – but I hated that throughout the book, she seemed to like one of the love interests immensely and then as soon as she was with the other, seemed to forget about the other. The ending did settle my annoyance, only slightly, but I still dread to think about what lengths the love triangle will go to in the sequel.

One of the biggest problems I had with this book, despite loving the plot so much and the characters, was with the dragon concept. I think what puzzled and confused me, and prevented me from giving this book five stars, was Ember’s point of view. Ember was our main dragon protagonist. She was a dragon – but her voice sounded too human. It wasn’t until she shifts into her true self that I realised how much her narrative voice did not suit what she actually was. The message, of course, is that dragons are no different from the humans – or the St George dragon slayers – in the book. However, I felt that perhaps her point of view should have sounded focused on the less human side of her. This really held me back from enjoying the dragon moments of the story, when Ember shifted into her true self. It was perhaps a bit too out of my comfort zone, and I felt that I couldn’t delve into Ember’s head space and immerse myself in the story in this way.

Aside from that, Julie Kagawa has done an incredible job – not that I expected any different! She really does know how to construct characters and settings, and I could read her books all day.

3.5-4 stars for this exciting fantasy read. Looking forward to Rogue, the sequel!

*Thanks to MIRA Ink for providing me with this copy to review!