Review of Touched By Venom (Dragon Temple Saga, #1), by Janine Cross

Touched by VenomI picked up all three of Janine CrossDragon Temple Saga books from my local library.

Description of Touched by Venom:
Like her half-breed mother, young Zarq Darquel can’t always hold her tongue. A peasant on a large dragon estate, she goes unnoticed by the Dragon Temple-until she captures the attention of a dragonmaster. Her clan is plunged into destitution, her sister Waivia sold into slavery, and her mother lost to madness. Desperate to find Waivia, Zarq and her delirious mother flee. Zarq then develops a taste for the highly addictive venom of the dragons she has been taught to revere-and with it, she imbibes their memories and a glimpse of a plot for social revolution. But to achieve it, she must defy not just sexual taboos and patriarchal society, but the Emperor who rules her nation.

Good lord, this one keeps you wanting. It’s beautifully written, seriously intense, harrowing, with amazing world-building and an admirable, strong heroine. But it moves at the speed of molasses. I mean it’s slooooow.

Seriously, the first 50% of the book covers Zarq’s life as a 9-year-old. The next 40% is age 10-17 and a whole heck of a lot of hard living and sacrifice. The next 8% shows her coming to grips with her situation and in the last 2% something finally happens. Yep, all that social revolution stuff hinted at in the book blurb happens in the last pages…THE LAST PAGES…and then, and THEN holy hotcakes, Batman, it’s a big ol’, rage-inducing cliffhanger. Grrrr!!

I have all three books in this series and spent most of this book thinking I wouldn’t bother with the second and third. I mean, even though it really is an astonishing piece of writing, it’s also a major downer. As and example, at one point the fallout of the actions of one 9-year-old boy destroys the lives and livelihoods of an entire village, with devastating, irreversible, long lasting affects. Honestly, what do you do with that? This is not a book to pick up for the feel-good factor. There isn’t any.

But, that last 10% gives me hope that the plot might FINALLY be picking up and I’ll see where book two goes. Ms. Cross can string a tale, she can weave atmosphere, she can bring you to tears—laughter maybe not so much, but heart-rending agony, sure—and she can create a believable fantasy world. Worth reading.

Note: I reviewed book two, Shadowed by Wings, here.

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