FIRELIGHT (Firelight #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Jacinda has always been a little different. As though being a draki, a descendant of dragons who can shift into human form, weren't unusual enough, she's even distinct among her own kind. She possesses the rare and much-coveted ability to breath fire, a talent that has made her invaluable among her pride and left her little freedom to make her own choices.
Her life is planned down to the last detail, she's to marry the alpha's son Cassian and further populate their pride with little fire breathers. Desperate to escape the smothering confines of her predetermined fate, Jacinda disobeys a strict draki order and takes to the air during the day without the safety of darkness to hide her from their mortal enemies, the Hunters. She quickly finds herself trapped, facing certain death at the hands of a young Hunter her age, only to receive a reprieve as he turns a blind eye to her hidden location.
As a result of her own carelessness, Jacinda, her twin sister, and her mom are forced to flee the pride and relocate in the human world. Staying human too long will kill Jacinda's draki, something she can't bear to accept. But in midst of the misery of a human high school, her draki flares to life in the presence of the young Hunter who saved her, and she marvels at her simultaneous luck and misfortune as he seems similarly drawn to her–a moth to her flame. Together they enter a relationship that could not only destroy them both, but the entire draki species as well.
This story is a warm breath of fresh air, alighting us with the emotional heat of first love and branding itself as unique among a plethora of paranormal creatures populating young adult fiction. The formula of forbidden romance is nothing novel, but it's almost always tortuously appealing, and Ms. Jordan infuses her tale with a dragon lore that adds a richly dark and threatening element to the typical teenage declarations of undying affection. It's no longer simply a matter of falling in love with a damaged bad boy and risking a shattered heart, but rather the very real possibility of the ruination of a family and the potential annihilation of an entire species.
Jacinda suffers from some stereotypical teenage girl indecisiveness, her internal monologue often contradicting her outward actions when it comes to Will, but she also possesses a refreshing candor, acknowledging her own weaknesses instead of feigning ignorance and creating a barrier between herself and us with her continuous denial. The dismissal of her feelings and the blatant disregard for her draki nature by her mother and twin sister weighs heavily on Jacinda, and she is strong enough to admit that at times her resentment of her current circumstances is a bit selfish (though her mom and sister are equally, if not more, egocentric in their pursuits). She recognizes she should want her mom and sister to be happy in their normalcy, and reveals to us she doesn't know how to feel differently despite her wish to do so for their sakes. We empathize as she struggles as so many of us do to stay true to herself in the face of her family's bitter disappointment that she not try harder to change, an abject loneliness and inability to be wholly and completely herself suffocating her a little more each day; and her situation forces our hackles to rise and our bodies to tense as a protective instinct for Jacinda and a righteous indignation on her behalf draws us deeper into her predicament.
The relationship between Jacinda and Will is sweetly common on the surface, the popular boy feeling drawn to the mysterious flame-haired new girl, but there's a dark truth smoldering in the embers of this fledgling connection, waiting patiently for a catalyst to spark the quiet flame into a roaring blaze. Jacinda believes she understands Will's appeal, feeling a kinship with him because he inexplicably saved her life, but we get the fleeting sensation every now and then that Will's answering attraction is not as simple as it seems. A new facet destined to alter everything we think we know dances on the edges of our understanding, just waiting to reveal itself and swipe our feet from under us, leaving us in a heap on the floor fully bowled over by the weight of this new discovery.
Secondary character Xander is someone of particular interest, his quiet menace emanating so strongly despite his brief appearances the pages seem to pulsate with static energy at the mere mention of his name, electric tingles racing from our fingers up our arms to raise the fine hairs on our necks in recognition of a formidable foe. He is only ever coolly polite to Jacinda, making him all the more disturbing for his apparent calm, an infinitely patient hunter just waiting for his prey to slip and make itself known. It's imperative to stay on alert at all times, eyes constantly searching for the whereabouts of this detached and calculating predator whose clearly caught a scent and will unflinchingly follow it's trail to the violent, bitter end.
The end is a touch abrupt, with Jacinda's wings taking her airborne after several explosive revelations rattle the very foundations of the relationships forged thus far, leaving us staring at the inside back cover bearing the full brunt of our newfound knowledge. The second installment can't come soon enough, a bevy of delectable future possibilities creating a ravenous hunger for answers that have just flown right out of our reach.