Thursday, April 01, 2010

REVIEW: The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu

PAGES: 309
SETTING: Contemporary China and Mongolia
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
SERIES: Dirk & Steele (book 9)

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.

Zoufalstvi. Epatoivo. 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: That was why she was chosen to address the stranger. 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 an icy sleep has been his atonement. Now, against his will, he has awoken. Zoufalstvi. Epatoivo. Asa. In English, the word is despair. But Soria knows the words for love.
I don't read a lot of paranormals but Marjorie Liu's Dirk & Steele series is one I have been faithfully reading since the first book, Tiger Eye, and I have enjoyed almost every one. They have all been solid action-packed stories with some great characters. But my main complaint for every one of these books is that there is so much action that at times I had a hard time figuring out what the heck is going on and had to reread pages. But I have to say that I had no such problem with The Fire King. TFK is still filled with action but I found it very smooth flowing and readable. The book just sucks you into the story and you can hardly wait to turn each page.

The Dirk & Steele agency is a group of shapeshifters and people with special gifts who banded together to fight an evil organization (The Consortium) which is described in previous books in the series. But thankfully, TFK works just fine as a standalone read, so you don't have to read any of the other books in the series to understand the storyline.

Karr is a 3000 year old chimera who was just dug out of a cave somewhere in China. A chimera is a creature whose parents are both different types of shapeshifters. Chimeras had been hunted to extinction because they were greatly feared. Karr is tied up and held prisoner and no one can understand him because his language is now extinct. Soria has a gift for languages, in fact she can understand any language in the world by using some kind of psychic connection. Soria's past involves a horrific major trauma from a betrayal and she is still somewhat fragile. She has separated herself from all her friends and family but D&S needs her help with Karr to translate his extinct language and discover why he survived for 3000 years. Karr and Soria are two incredible well-formed characters and Liu makes you feel their isolation and loneliness. Soria was especially well done. I really felt her sense of betrayal, pain, and fear. Yet I marveled at how tough she was and appreciated her sharp tongue. I think she is probably one of my favorite heroines of the year.

Another plus was the unusual setting of China and Mongolia. Can't say I have ever read any book with this setting. And the characters from the tribe of nomads (including a foreign exchange student) and shapeshifters that have appeared in previous books in the series were all very well developed. The sexual tension was marvelous and this is where Karr really shines with how he falls for Soria and doesn't see her "flaws". There was only one short (but warm) sex scene which had me wishing for more. But Liu never puts many sex scenes in her books unfortunately.

All in all an enjoyable read. TFK kept my interest from first page to last and I think it's the best one in the series.


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