Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Within The Flames

(Dirke & Steele #11)

Marjorie M. Liu
Adult Paranormal Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Lyssa, a dragon shapeshifter, has been on the run for the past decade after watching her mother brutally murdered before her eyes. Since then she's learned to keep to herself and to form no attachments so no one can be used against her, all the while struggling to control her dragon-inherited abilities with fire.

Eddie, a member of the Dirk & Steele agency, is tasked with locating Lyssa and returning with her to keep her safe from those who destroyed her family all those years ago. Familiar with fire himself being pyrokinetic, Eddie is the ideal candidate to earn her trust and truly understand all the things she's hiding from, not the least of which is herself.

Lyssa's gritty and violent past is rapidly catching up with her, and while she ran back then and has been running ever since, with Eddie by her side she decides fleeing is no longer an option. But what now hunts them both is may be something darker and more powerful than can be fought with fire alone.

Within the Flames is a story that gives new meaning to the word “combustible”–our hero and heroine literally bursting into flames on more than one occasion–but though their separate fire-related abilities might suggest their passion is one of the instant and scorching variety, we find the exact opposite to be true. Their first encounter is a but a spark between them, each subsequent page serving as a heated breath that encourages the tiny flame to grow to greater heights, and the warmth that started in our bellies when one tortured soul recognized it’s likeness in another across a crowded New York City street spreads to our extremities and eventually our hearts as we find ourselves as consumed by their relationship as they are. There’s often nothing more satisfying than a love that burns slowly, one like Lyssa and Eddie's that gives us time to feel every lick of flame created by the tension, need, and fear radiating off them as their story is seared into our memory.

Lyssa, despite being one half of a romantic pair, seems to be more of the central focus of the story, a young woman with a closet full of skeletons we get to unlock with deliciously agonizing slowness as we slide it open to examine each intriguing and sometimes horrifying element of her past one bone at a time. She seems to struggle with the fact that she’s capable of inflicting serious damage to those around her more than Eddie does, continually pushing him away when he seeks only to bring her closer. Though her reaction is more than understandable in the beginning, by the end her tendency to reject his strength, companionship, and mere presence out of ingrained habit to keep him safe becomes a touch tiresome, and we can’t help but wish she would accept and trust him as he so clearly does her. That singular flaw doesn’t hinder our enjoyment of the story overall however, as the more we know of her past the more her behavior makes sense, and our sense of kinship with her increases even as we wish she’d let Eddie past her formidable defenses.

It seems as though we don’t quite get to know Eddie as well as we do Lyssa, perhaps due in part to his overwhelming need to protect this woman who knows and understands what he’s been through in trying to control his fire; a desire that takes precedence over dwelling on his past. We get plenty of snippets of the painful history that has caused the scars on the man we see before us on the pages, but unlike Lyssa he’s had his friends and colleagues at Dirk & Steele to help him cope over the years, creating pillars of support where Lyssa’s had only abject loneliness. Though he is a bit further from our reach than Lyssa, our connection to him is still strong and thriving, and we find ourselves eternally grateful that two masters and servants of fire are able to walk from the charred remains of their pasts and into the blazing possibility of their futures.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, the world of the agents of Dirk & Steele is one that’s easy to slip into and find a home, the characters darkly engaging and the little flashes of the history of the agency itself more than enough to have us running to the bookstores or our e-readers to start all over at the very beginning.

Rating: 4/5


  1. Hmm...Doesn't sound like my kind of book but it might surprise me. I like the fire tie-in - glad their relationship is a match that takes awhile to light. Better than a raging fire. Is this the author who wrote Legend?

  2. Oh my gosh! Dragon shapeshifters?? Is there really anything else as awesome? x) I'm a HUGE fan girl of Sophie Jordan's Firelight series but I couldn't find very many other books about dragons before so I'm super happy about this one! Dark and engaging books are my favourite! ;)

    Awesome review, Jenny!! Thanks so much for telling me about this series -- I'm really excited to start now! It sounds amazing! :)

  3. I've never heard of Marjorie M. Liu before, but the series does interesting. I've only read one novella adult PRN with dragons and that was Dragon Swan (I think) from the Dark Hunter series, but I really liked it. Since I'm OCD with series, I'll start at the beginning. Thanks for introducing this author to me, Jenny! :)

  4. I have this one and a few more in this series. I was cataloging last night and decided this will be one of my early 2012 reads!

  5. Alison - I don't know, you might like it! It's much tamer than the Brotherhood, more along the lines of Cat and Bones:) I haven't read the first 10 books, but I'm going to go back and start them:) And I thought she was the one that wrote Legend too, but that's Marie Lu, I'm pretty sure they're two different people:)

    Mimi - Right? It is an adult paranormal series so be aware of that. And you can start with this one, I wasn't lost at all even though it's book eleven.

    Rummanah - If you like Dragons, you should try Thea Harrisons Novels of the Elder Races series too, Dragos is yummy. I liked that the heroine was the dragon in this case though:)

    Felicia - YAY! I'm looking forward to starting from the beginning, there was some of Eddie's history I missed out on that I want to go back and understand. Not enough to detract from the story obviously, but I'm curious:)

  6. LOL- oh my gosh I thought it was cover critique Monday...:D

    This is probably not one that will hit my TBR but I loved your always.

  7. That's great that it's an easy book to jump into, even if you haven't read the previous ones. And I like that the romance builds slowly. I'll have to check this out, it sounds interesting :)

    Great review, Jenny!

  8. For some reason I read YA, then read the review and thought what? Lol, my brain is so not with me today

  9. I can definitely see the combustible thing becoming humorous. :P It's a bummer that we don't get to know Eddie as well as we could, but otherwise the book sounds great! It's nice that despite being eleventh in a series (holy crap!) Within the Flames still welcomes new readers. :)

  10. Tina - Ha! Nope, just normal review Monday:) Glad you enjoyed the review!

    Lea - It was really nice, the story definitely stood on it's own:) And I adore a slow building romance, they're my favorite kind:)

    Blodeuedd - Definitely not YA:) My brain often leaves me on Mondays as well.

    Lauren - I think I just didn't get to know Eddie very well because I hadn't read the other books, there's definitely history there that I'm sure was worked in to those, I just wasn't privy to it in this one:)

  11. It took me a long moment of blank staring to realize that I wasn't in some type of Twilight Zone Time Warp. After blinking away my dismay, I realized this was a review instead of a CC, which signals Fridays for me!

    After the way you've described Eddie, I'm convinced that I'd be willing sustain fire crotch just to get to know him. ;)

  12. So are you saying you read this one out of order, or was that just a comment for people like me? LOL

    I do have the first one! YaY!! I'll actually start this one from the beginning! ROFL

  13. I love when books in series can stand alone. That's a huge selling point for me these days! Love the overall sound of this one, too, though the cover is too much in my humble opinion ;) Great review!

  14. Great Review! Sounds like an interesting book. I have heard of this author. But not the Dirk & Steele novels.


  15. Missie - Definitely not a CC:) Though I do wish it were Friday instead of Monday.

    Melissa - I totally thought of you when I learned this was book 11 in the series. I was all "Melissa will be so proud of me!"

    Crazyscott - True statement.

    Melissa - Me too:) It was highly entertaining and that's really all I can ask for right?

    Heather - This was my first Dirk & Steele experience:) Definitely going to go back and start with book one now!

  16. I'm intrigued by the book, although I've never heard of it before. Also, that cover makes me want to shield my eyes a bit, lest the flames get them. Have you read any of the rest of the series? Number 11, eh?

  17. I'm suffering from reader anxiety now...this sounds like a good story, and one that I'd enjoy...but #11?

    Times like this I wish I weren't so obsessive about reading series in order, but I've tried before to go out of sequence, and I get twitchy. Seriously. It ain't pretty... ;)

    Guess I'll just have to read all eleven... LOL

  18. Hmm this book really grabs at me. I love the way your review flowed. I will have to check it out.