Talon by Julie Kagawa is the first young adult fantasy novel in a series of the same name. The book is set in modern day California, in a world where shape-shifting dragons, under the protection of an organisation called Talon, assimilate into the human world to avoid the dragon-slaying Order Of St George. After spending their entire childhood locked away for their safety being trained by Talon, 16-year-old Ember and her twin Dante finally get their first and last taste of freedom for the summer before they must finish their training and begin serving Talon. This is jeopardised by “rogue” non-Talon dragon Riley who promises them freedom for life, not just this one summer, if they turn traitor and leave Talon.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old St George soldier Garrett is given orders to find the disguised dragon in California – and kill her. But things get complicated when Garrett and human-Ember meet and they begin to develop feelings for each other, not realising they are each others’ sworn enemies – and Ember is the dragon Garrett has been sent to kill.
It’s probably obvious from the photos accompanying this post (which, if they haven’t loaded, contain two of my numerous dragon figurines) why I picked up this book – I like dragons. So I’m going to love Talon, right?
Unfortunately, this was not the case. The official blurb doesn’t give any hint that this is anything other than a high fantasy set in a medieval-style world, so opening it to find cars and iPods mentioned within the first two pages was a real shock for me. It wasn’t what I’d been expecting, and it wasn’t what I’d been looking for. But it’s about dragons, so I just had to pick it up and give it another go.
The next thing that I didn’t like was Kagawa’s writing style; it involves more telling and not enough showing for my liking, seems simplistic without being stylish, and uses first person past tense, which tends to annoy me. It didn’t help that there were no variations in the voice as the story switched from Ember’s perspective to Garrett’s, and later a third character’s too. But it’s possible to tell a good story without beautiful prose, so I decided I was willing to overlook the writing style for the sake of the dragons.
But for a book about dragons, there were disappointingly few dragons. The book mostly focuses on Talon’s unfairness and human-Ember’s love life. If you’ve read my post on romantic subplots, you’ll know I’m picky about these, especially in YA books. And this book did not pass my test. Talon had cliches galore – both love interests are apparently super hot, they both spend at least half the book wondering what these weird feelings are (hint: they’re attraction. Thought that was pretty obvious tbh), they go to a carnival and he wins her a stuffed bear, and there’s even a love triangle, for crying out loud. I found the vast majority of it pretty cringey.
This meant that the book was kind of slow, with the pace and tension only picking up a bit right towards the end. Speaking of the end, even the plot twists couldn’t redeem this for me – I found them quite predictable.
In conclusion, if you like the sound of a book about Californian teenagers, some of which are actually dragons-in-disguise, spending their summer at the beach, and you don’t mind love triangles and average writing, then look no further than Talon. Personally, though, I struggled to get to the end of it (if I hadn’t been planning on reviewing it, I wouldn’t have bothered), and I intend neither to actively recommend it to anyone, nor to read any of the rest of the series.
Which is a shame, really. Being a book about dragons, I really wanted to like it.
Have you read Talon? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!