Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu

Liu, Marjorie M. - Dirk and Steele 09 - The Fire King Long ago, shape-shifters were plentiful, soaring through the sky as crows, racing across African veldts as cheetahs, raging furious as dragons atop the Himalayas. Like gods, they reigned supreme. But even gods have laws, and those laws, when broken, destroy.

Zoufalství. Epätoivo. Asa. Three words in three very different languages, and yet Soria understands. Like all members of Dirk & Steele, she has a gift, and hers is communication. When she is chosen to learn the dead language of a shape-shifter resurrected after thousands of years of icy sleep, she discovers a warrior consumed with fury.

Strong as a lion, quick as a serpent—Karr is his name, and in his day he was king. But he is a son of strife, a creature of tragedy. As fire consumed all he loved, so death was to be his atonement. Now, against his will, he has awoken. Zoufalství. Epätoivo. Asa. In English, the word is despair. But Soria knows the words for love.

I haven't been in the mood for romance lately, or at least, not the genre version, but I wanted something different as a break from The Curse of the Mistwraith and this is the one that caught my eye.
I've been reading Marjorie M. Liu's Dirk and Steele series from the beginning, but I was starting to lose track of what had gone before and who was who, so I didn't immediately buy this one when it came out. Then I discovered that it, and all the previous books, were finally available as ebooks. That pretty much made the decision for me, I purchased it and (surprise, surprise) it immediately sat in the TBR list as my books usually do.

It had a lot of good reviews when it came out, so I was rather looking forward to reading it.

I'm very glad I did. This was an excellent addition to the series. There wasn't too much baggage from earlier books, meaning I could get on with enjoying the story here without worrying too much about what had happened before. There was one recurring character that I don't remember much about (Robert), but since I know he's still a mystery to everyone else, it didn't matter at all that he was also a mystery to me. All the same, I hope he gets his own book one day and we finally find out what his story is.

I loved Soria and Karr. Both were well-rounded with good, solid back stories and it was lovely seeing them get to know each other. Their interaction was lovely.

I really liked the way Karr walked most easily in his chimera shape rather than staying in human form - something that fitted with his history as well as his personality - and the way Soria took that in her stride and accepted it as part of him. So often with shape shifter stories the shifter spends most of his/her time in human form and the animal shape is only used in particular or extraordinary circumstances. Karr was equally human, lion and dragon and he embraced all of them rather than trying to fit the human norm. Of course, that was easier when he was originally alive and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future now he wants to live in the modern world with Soria.

I also particularly liked that Liu chose to make what had happened when Soria lost her arm not be something paranormal. So often in a paranormal book, everything ends up tying back to the character's abilities and the plot of the book. Here, this is not the case, and it was a refreshing change. What happened to her had a huge effect on her and was a major factor in why she ended up in the place she did with Karr and therefore was every important, but I really liked that it was separate from anything to do with Dirk and Steele.

We saw progress for Eddie, who suffered a major, um, "setback" in the earlier book, The Last Twilight. While I don't remember all the details of that, we were given enough for this story, which was all that was needed. It will be interesting to see what we learn about him next - and if Evie sticks around.

Eddie and his choices at the end of the book act as a stark contrast to what Roland does (or rather doesn't do) both in this book and earlier when Soria was hurt. He doesn't come across particularly well here, but I suspect there is more to things than we have learned so far. I will be interested to see if Roland ends up getting a book of his own and what we will discover then. He's certainly not past the point of no return, but he's got some work to do to beat his own demons. I rather think I'd like to see him do it. But he sure owes Soria for past behaviour.

It was also a nice touch that, while his is clearly a romance, it actually contains no explicit sex. While I have nothing at all against a good sex scene, it can be annoying when over-the-top attraction, lust and sex take over from the story. If I have to choose, I'll take a good
story over a sex scene any day. In The Fire King, Liu focuses on the story and the development of the relationship between Soria and Karr, rather than just lust. That's a win in my book.

The existence of the chimera also answers an interesting question about the shapeshifters in this universe that, I must admit, I had never thought to ask. But it's a good one, and I'm glad Liu brought it into the series. It will be interesting to see what happens between the shifters and the chimera in the future.

I'm really glad I did stick with this series. This was an excellent story with really enjoyable characters and I find myself really looking forward to the next one.

The Fire King
Marjorie M. Liu 
Dirk and Steele, Book 9
Read: 22-7-10 to 26-7-10

Dirk and Steele

  1. Tiger Eye (Goodreads link)
  2. Shadow Touch (Goodreads link)
  3. The Red Heart of Jade (Goodreads link)
  4. A Dream of Stone and Shadow in Dark Dreamers (Goodreads link)
  5. Eye of Heaven (Goodreads link)
  6. Soul Song
  7. The Last Twilight
  8. The Wild Road (Goodreads link)
  9. The Fire King

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