Book Reviews 2014 · Fantasy Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘Talon’ by Julie Kagawa

“There are a dozen soldiers hiding in that maze,” my trainer said. “All hunting you. All looking at you. Welcome to phase two of your training, hatchling.”

2.75 stars (Rounded to 3)

There is nothing worse than hotly anticipating a new book from an author whose previous work you have liked, only to discover that this new book is absolutely rubbish. That, unfortunately, is the situation I find myself in here. I love the first two books in Kagawa’s ‘Iron Fey’ faerie series, and I own the rest of that series so that I can continue on at my leisure. I have also heard brilliant things about her ‘Blood of Eden’ vampire series, although I have not tried it out yet. For obvious reasons, I expect to at least enjoy Kagawa’s books, as I have really enjoyed what I have read of her work in the past. When I heard about ‘Talon’, I was so excited, as Kagawa’s magical creature of choice this time was dragons. This book sounded a lot more up my street than her vampire series, and in fact it sounds like it should be perfect for me. I have to say that it was not, and I have not been so disappointed in a book for a long while.

*Minor spoilers if you over-think what I’m saying, but nothing glaringly obvious or important*

If you’ve read ‘The Iron King’, the first in Kagawa’s ‘Iron Fey’ series, you will know that there are about 50 pages in the beginning which are based in a high school, and feel rather contemporary with just a tad of magic. It then picks up the pace as we are plunged into a fantasy world, and the contemporary feeling quickly fades. As I am not a huge contemporary fan, this was very welcome. I was expecting a similar feel for ‘Talon’, so was not surprised when it started feeling rather contemporary. The only problem is that nothing ever changed! This book felt 98% contemporary romance and 2% fantasy, which was not what I signed up for! I am really dubious about calling this a fantasy, as it felt like nothing of the sort when reading it.

The book is about a dragon, Ember, and her brother Dante, who are hiding in human form as some kind of training, to ensure that they could pass as humans if they were to go into hiding. Or at least, that’s why I think they were hiding amongst humans, but the description as to anything to do with the fantasy aspects of the world is very poor. We hear constantly of Talon, an organisation set up to protect dragons against a group of humans, St. George, who are renowned dragon slayers. Cool idea, yes, but it would really help if we were given any backstory into either organisation, or at least given a description of how either one works. This should have been the part of the novel which I adored, as the concept is something which I find very intriguing, yet it fell completely flat due to complete lack of world-building or explanation.

The book contains four points of view: primarily Ember and Garret, but also Riley from the midway point and one chapter of Dante at the end. None of the chapters are long, but on average, Ember’s chapters are at least twice the length of the boys’, which is a huge shame, as all three boys (and in fact every character) are more tolerable than Ember, and yet 75% of the book is from her perspective, which for alternating chapters is quite a lot, especially as we have three points of view for the largest part of the book. While Ember’s chapters go on for about 10 pages, Garret’s were only ever about 4 pages, which infuriated me considerably, as his chapters were more interesting, less aggravating and easier to read.

After ‘Iron Fey’ – where Meghan is a strong female character (in the first book anyway!), Puck is one of my favourite characters of anything I have read this year and the chemistry between Ash and Meghan is brilliant – I was expecting the characters in ‘Talon’ to be just as promising. Firstly, I was hoping that Ember could be as strong a character as Meghan was. It has to be said now, but Ember was one of the most juvenile and immature characters I have read about in a while. She is the typical rude, disobedient, bitchy protagonist which is all too common nowadays and I think sets a very bad example with their terrible attitudes. Yes she has to train in the mornings, but she has all afternoon to surf and hang out at the mall with her friends, yet she is constantly whinging and whining about having no freedom. Yes, Talon as an organisation are very restrictive, but in those afternoons she is getting the most freedom she is probably ever going to get, and instead of embracing it and having a good time, she moans constantly about how awful her life is. After a massive passage saying as such on page one, and another one every other page afterwards, she becomes very much a stuck record. She is also incredibly stupid when it comes to Garret – he knows less of normal human society than her, and he can shoot incredibly well? Alarm bells should be ringing, and at one point early on, she does wonder if Garret is St. George, however as she ‘loves him’, she forgets all about this threat and it is never brought up again. The one thing which I hated the most was how out-of-order Ember is to her twin brother, Dante. She was constantly mocking his decisions, ignoring his (very well-placed) advice and putting his own freedom at risk, yet it somehow always has to be his fault. It reminded me so much of how despicable Tris is to Caleb in ‘Divergent’; Tris is foul to Caleb, Caleb then does what is right for himself and is suddenly the devil. That is exactly what happens here. Tris’s behaviour is one of the reasons why ‘Divergent’ is one of my least favourite series, and Ember felt very, very similar. Dante is constantly concerned about Ember doing what will be right for her future and not put her at risk, but as she is so immature and concerned about her own freedom and not considering that her actions may incriminate Dante too, she becomes a cruel bitch to her own sibling. What alarms me is, exactly like ‘Divergent’, I felt that by the end we were meant to feel like what Dante did was wrong, and a betrayal to his sister, exactly like how we were meant to feel about Caleb, and as I said for Caleb, I think Dante did exactly the right thing. Ember did not deserve any better after how she treated him like scum. She essentially blackmailed her own brother into sacrificing his beliefs or losing her, and yet Dante is suddenly in the wrong. I can’t tolerate that. Dante was about the only character I could stand throughout, although we saw nothing of him for the most part, and when we did, anything he did was surrounded by Ember’s insults and rudeness. He is constantly concerned for his sister’s wellbeing, he tries to do everything he can to stop her stupidity and he never surrenders his beliefs for a mere story that his hysterical sister relays to him. I think he was the only one I had no issues with.

Garret started off as a very likeable character. He was kind, intriguing and dedicated to his job with St. George. He had a nice backstory to do with his family being killed by a dragon, which I thought would play a vital role in his character development. Kagawa missed a glaringly obvious trick there, by creating a satisfying backstory which could have been deployed many times, yet mentioning it twice throughout the course of the novel, once in his first chapter and once in what may have been his last chapter, but was certainly right at the end. I had entirely forgotten about it after that amount of time! I was hoping that Garret could develop into an interesting character. in fact, he did the opposite, and became more and more one-dimensional as time went on. He became less realistic (he knows less about the human world than Ember, I mean, really?), a lot more stupid with his decisions and I slowly lost all interest in his story. Every single thought he had came back to Ember, and he seemed to have the same revelation that he was in love with her at least 8 times in the book (I am not exaggerating). Also, through Garret’s eyes, the Ember we see is a completely different character to the one we see from her own perspective; she is charming and rather shy instead of being a major cow. That could be a massive case of the rose-tinted glasses, or just poor character work, but the two versions of Ember were so different that they could not have been the same person. Garret and Ember had no chemistry, which is problematic when we get at least one long-winded description of them making out every chapter (we often have two similar kisses within four pages, both described in detail). It felt very forced and I had no belief that Ember actually liked Garret. Garret was slightly more believable in that aspect, but it was still rather ridiculous. Their romance was also a severe case of insta-love, made worse by the fact that both were saying ‘I can’t love her/him as I am not supposed to fall in love’ over and over again. He becomes weak around her, apologising for things when it is her fault, just so as not to lose her. For these reasons, I found it very hard to identify with Garret. I did have some respect for him, though. Him and Tristan, his best friend, end up in the same situation as Ember and Dante, and at least Garret accepts that he is in the wrong and does not blame Tristan, whereas Ember thinks everything is Dante’s fault.

Riley was a brilliant addition to the story, and I really loved his character for the most part; he was mysterious and fun, yet we saw him doing the right thing, which is more than can be said for most of the characters in this novel. I would have adored him, were it not for one really significant point: Riley is incredibly possessive over Ember. He refers to her as ‘his’ when he has spoken to her all of twice, he rambles on about how they are destined to be together and he tells her that they are made for each other on the first time they have spoken for more than about 30 minutes at once. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, and I hated it more that Ember started reciprocating to this inappropriate behaviour in a way which made me feel like she was using him purely to get her own way. Saying that, Ember and Riley had more chemistry than Ember and Garret, but to be fair, Ember would have more chemistry with a cardboard box than with Garret. It was this that made me incredibly uncertain about Riley as a character. Despite this, I liked his personality, and I felt annoyed that his story was written essentially so that he could be the third member of this love triangle, as I think he is a better character than that.

Kagawa’s actual writing was pretty good (although not a patch on anything else I have read by her), and I will give her credit that there were less long-winded descriptions in ‘Talon’ than in ‘Iron Fey’ (which is actually a problem, as she has gone from too much to too little!). Most of the marks that I have given are for Kagawa’s writing and for the bearable parts of Dante, Riley and Garret’s characters, but even then, I feel as if I have over-scored but cannot bear to give less. If you are the kind of person who likes cheesy romance love triangles with two incredibly flawed and equally unsuitable guys and one bitchy, callous and despicable girl who sets a terrible example to the readers as to how to behave, this may be your book. If you are looking for a fantasy with cool dragons and good characters, drop the book and run a mile, as you will only be disappointed. I definitely do not recommend this, not even to a Kagawa fan (actually, if you are a Kagawa fan, don’t even consider it).

Twitter – @emmathereader

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5 thoughts on “‘Talon’ by Julie Kagawa

  1. What an informative review, Emma! Talon is a book I’ve been dying to read because of the dragons and because of all the good things I’ve heard about Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. But after hearing what you’ve said… I’m a little disappointed now, and I haven’t even read it. It’s hard to read about characters who irritate you, and the fact that this is very contemporary in feeling when it’s supposed to be a (high?) fantasy doesn’t entirely please me–I’m not a huge fan of contemporary to begin with. Hmmm… I might still pick this up, despite what you said, just because it’s been on my TBR since before it was released and I want to experience it anyway, good or bad. But now I know what to expect, and I suppose I’ll just have to go read the Iron Fey books to really experience good Julie Kagawa novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t want to completely discourage you from picking up this book, but if you’re not a fan of contemporaries and you are expecting this to be a proper fantasy novel, I wouldn’t suggest getting your hopes up. Definitely try it if you’ve been meaning to for so long, as your opinion may be completely different to mine after all, but I’d still say that the ‘Iron Fey’ books are a better bet for Kagawa.


      1. Thanks for the heads up. If I do end up reading it, I’ll certainly let you know what I thought! But I do want to read the Iron Fey books this coming year, too. I’ve heard good things about those books!


      2. Definitely tell me what you think if you read it! And reading the ‘Iron Fey’ books would be a good call. I’m intending to complete the series this coming year myself, and I was very fond of the first one (book two was not as good but it was still quite enjoyable).

        Liked by 1 person

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