Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"The Fire King" by Marjorie Liu

"Long ago, shape-shifters were plentiful, soaring through the sky as crows, racing across African veldts as cheetahs, raging furious as dragons atop the Himalayas. Like gods, they reigned supreme. But even gods have laws, and those laws, when broken, destroy. Zoufalsvi. Epatoivo. Asa. Three words in three very different languages, and yet Soria understands. Like all members of Dirk & Steele, she has a gift, and hers is communication: That was why she was chosen to address the stranger. Strong as a lion, quick as a serpent, Karr is his name, and in his day he was king. But he is a son of strife, a creature of tragedy. As fire consumed all he loved, so an icy sleep has been his atonement. Now, against his will, he has awoken. Zoufalsvi. Epatoivo. Asa. In English, the word is despair. But Soria knows the words for love."

I've been following Liu's Dirk & Steele series from the start and have rarely been disappointed in any of the books. This one has to be one of my favorites, though, a very moving story, quickly paced, with great character development. Also, a very real love story, with almost little to no sexual content, which surprised me. Oh, there's kissing and attraction, don't worry! But no real "sex scenes" as the case may be. Then again, most of Liu's books aren't big on the physical relationship between the characters, which may be why I enjoy them so much. I love to read what I consider a real romance book, one where the characters are falling in love, rather than into bed!

Soria hasn't been working with the group for the last year, placing herself in a sort of self-exile after a horrifying night that left her literally a broken woman. And Karr, well, he hasn't been anywhere for the last 3,000 years or so, having asked a friend to kill him after a tragedy of his making. Both are, without a doubt, the most flawed and vulnerable people to grace a page written by Liu. And yet, both obviously have a great deal of inner strength - they've just lost touch with it. Soria is asked by the head honcho of D&S, Roland, to take on this case due to her abilities with language. No matter what someone says, no matter what language they say it in, Soria can understand it. And since Karr has been away from the world for so long, no one speaks his language anymore. As soon as they're introduced (and not formally, of course!), Soria senses that Karr is not a bad man, just misunderstood (not a cliche in his case).

The duo are on the run before long, and they're in jeopardy almost non-stop. It's hard to know who to trust; indeed, they're not even sure they can trust each other. As more time passes, though, they are drawn to each other. They also learn each other's deepest secrets, including the circumstances that led them both to darkest moments. I was pretty sure I understood Karr's situation before he spoke of it, but Soria's caught me completely off guard. I was very impressed in Liu's ability to bring her ordeal to life without running into Lifetime movie territory.

As usual, I definitely recommend you check out Liu. Pick up a Dirk & Steele book if you prefer a good romance with lots of action and some supernatural elements. Or try her Hunter Kiss series, if you prefer something a bit darker and more fantasy related. You won't be sorry on either count.

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