I seem to be on a dragon themed reading kick lately. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s awesome!
Red Ben is a dragon, masquerading in human form so that he can walk down the street without everybody freaking out. Hundreds of years before this, he signed a pact called the Lore with a bunch of other magical creatures and knights, in which, he essentially agreed to hide his existence from humanity at large and the knights, in turn, would protect him. Tonight, he was attacked twice. What’s up with that? Ben doesn’t know, but he’s going to find out. He’s also had a falling out with his lady fair. Hiding your true nature from someone doesn’t make for a healthy relationship, but Ben’s enemies seem to know Rose’s (the girlfriend) name. So, now, he has to save his hide, her life, and still preserve the Lore.
Meanwhile, in a desert in Africa, an ancient power is awakening…
I enjoyed Chasing Embers. I really dig the basic premise that there’s a magical world existing alongside ours but we just can’t perceive it. Also, the idea that the Magna Carta wasn’t a political document but a secret, magical pact is fun too.“John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou, doth decree and grant this day, by common counsel of our kingdom, this Pact devised by the Curia Occultus and witnessed by those guardians of our realm. Those Remnants of the Old Lands, which yet linger amongst us, shall forthwith succumb to the Long Sleep…” loc 362, ebook.
The other magical creatures are straight up creepy- like magical creatures should be in my opinion. Also, Bennett seems to ascribe to the Terry Pratchett view that too much magic use thins the veil between worlds and draws attention of the things outside of this world to the magic user, which is also pretty creepy: “The nether wasn’t space, nor the ambient cosmos, but a place that lay beyond, or between, as inner as it was outer. Perhaps it was the raw, empyreal stuff of creation, for all Ben knew. Things lurked in that astral sea, creatures hungry for life, and all magic had its price. When a person drew on the nether- drew on it like a thread in a carpet- they risked unravelling the world entire.” loc 393, ebook.
The romance between Ben and Rose is just the perfect amounts of dysfunction and sparks (nothing graphic in here though for folks who look for such things): “I miss you,” she said, quiet and fierce. “I hate you.” Defeated, Ben rested his head on her shoulder, smoothing down the flowers on her dress. He let her anger hit him like a wave, tasting her muted fury at her love for him. Since he’d first crawled out of his egg, it had always been this way. Some women went for the knight. Others wanted the beast. Neither stood a chance of a happy ending.” loc 711, ebook.
Ben’s angst at his long-lived existence reminded me of Atticus in The Iron Druid Chronicles. He loves deeply but, at the same time, he realizes that those he loves aren’t going to be around that long: “Your love of humans. Do you never grow tired of it? You might as well love a sunbeam that flickers through a cloud. This world was not meant to hold them. Time will take them all so quickly. A blink in the life of a god.” loc 3112, ebook.
What kept Chasing Embers from being a five star read to me is that I thought Bennett explained himself too much. Leave some of the plot mysterious and murky, like magic itself. I don’t need to be spoon-fed why this happened or that happened. Otherwise, this was an excellent read. There’s some language in here and a few disturbing, physical descriptions, but nothing that a mature teen couldn’t handle. Highly recommended for urban fantasy and dragon readers!
A big thank you to NetGalley and Orbit books for a free, digital advanced reader’s copy of this book for review purposes. And, thank you for reading!