My First Impressions
Steampunk. Dragons. Shifters. Airships. Mystery. True love. I don't often read steampunk, but when I do, I'm intrigued by the creativity. Lawless does not disappoint. This first installment of the Ironfire Legacy was delightful just in the fact that it combines so many elements in a world rich with its own culture and politics. (Some inclusions make this story definitely an adult book, as we'll see.)
Summary of Lawless
(as seen on Goodreads)
The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.
Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.
Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate--and are sentenced to death.
Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what--and who--blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what "betrothed" and "arranged marriage" meant.
But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper--secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.
Imagine that there was one person in the universe who was specially, uniquely created to be your spouse and you were created to be their spouse. In the dragon culture, this true love exists. While it's not always as idyllic as it sounds, this bond is an important theme in the Ironfire Legacy books. The attraction to one's mate is incredibly strong, emotionally and sexually, so the sexual undertones, comments, and tension are near constant. This is underscored by the fact that sexual relations are strongly discouraged in the current dragon culture, so Kesia's introduction to human society opens the doorway to a number of (sometimes hilariously) awkward discoveries and discussions. Some plots by "the bad guys" involve intentional attempts at seduction.
Some of the characters, while seeking their perfect mate, jump into bed with others, although the narrative makes clear that this does not ultimately bring fulfillment. Others have relations only with their mate. The sexual scenes share the lead up (touching, kissing, flirting, etc.), then gloss over the rest of the action with metaphors and pick up the story again "afterward."
There are several uses of the words "damn" and "hell," as well as cultural expletives using the names of the various gods of the people.
Violence is a given. I mean, dragons with teeth and claws and fire. Never mind a war fought both on land and in the air. Terrifying memories haunt Kesia, a convicted murderer, and, while we are not given all the details, the ones we are given are disturbing. That said, these memories are important to the story and drive the action forward.
What I enjoyed about Lawless
Kesia (love that name!) is a relatable main character, with intense self-doubt yet the courage to overcome it when duty beckons. There were moments when her naivete was laugh-out-loud funny. Her tactical partner, Zephryn, contrasts beautifully with her, providing the compassionate, analytical stability that she needs. Shance starts out with the almost typical "bad boy" reputation, but the more we get to know him, the more we recognize that he longs for meaning but feels trapped. And he does have honor, as we see in his developing and respectful relationship with Kesia.
The concept of Talents is a ton of fun. Imagine being born with one Talent that allows you to excel at a particular skill. (If I had such a Talent, I would want it to be the ability to know how to understand, speak, and write any language, ancient or modern. But I digress…) The Talents, their rules, and their exceptions influence the story tremendously and lead the characters to several surprising discoveries.
The sense of mystery is the real action-driver. What happened to Kesia's parents? What happened to Kesia herself when she was imprisoned? Who are the Lawless? Who is behind the green smoke and its devastating effects? What is the real reason for the war between dragons and humans?
If you enjoy witty dialogue, high-stakes action, dragons, a blend of industrial flair with ancient powers, and the search for true love, Lawless will take you on an adventure!
(Plus there are other books in the series, so you don't have to stop there.)
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