A human female born into a breeding manor never has a choice…I am a slave, but at least I am alive.
When the man with wings and scales gave me a second choice—I took it. The others of his kind pin me with hungry eyes, but I’ll do what I must to survive. I’ll preside over their Draken Games—and choose a winner every night to share my bed. The alternative is death.
Traded from one prison to the next I have but one hope left—the Lost Siren. I must find her before the demon hordes come if these men—Drakens—have any chance of escaping their mountainous prison, and me along with them.
I am on an unfortunate losing streak. This is the fourth book in a row I’ve read that started out well but then deteriorated by the end, largely due to authorial choice. The problem with this one was that, though the writing was perfectly readable, I hated everything about the plotting and characters. I found everyone unpleasant and unlikiable. But I have a second, more important complaint that I’m not even 100% sure how to explain.
Throughout the book, over and over and over again, Wren is told that no one will hurt her; no one will do anything that she doesn’t consent to. But the book is full, I mean chock full, of people doing things she doesn’t consent to. She almost dies like 15 times from drakens hurting her. I’m talking broken bones, concussions, intended SA—serious hurts—and often these events happen on the same page as “no one will hurt you, no one will do anything you don’t want.”
This could have been interestingly integrated into the plot. The different degrees or meanings of safe or consent could have been explored. Or the expectations of men and women or drakens and humans. Maybe it was a lie to put her at ease, etc. This could have been purposefully used. Instead, when each draken says she’s safe and no one will force her to do anything she doesn’t want, the inference is that they are sincere. Over and over and over again. Despite this, the excuse for many of the injuries is that the drakens are fighting their instincts. (It’s never clear what these instincts actually are; it’s implied to mate, but it reads like kill, so I don’t know.) The important part is that if the instinct is to rape and rend, I do not know where the assurance that no one would hurt her is supposed to have even come from. It’s not in their nature. It’s not in their culture. It does not appear to be a shared norm or commitment.
What this means is that it’s the narration—the author—that is lying to the reader. They set up the expectation that Wren can look to ‘her males’ to keep her safe and reinforce it repeatedly with the ‘no one will force you’ mantra. But then prove it a lie over and over while also writing Wren as if she is safe with them, which is provably (proven) false. Each man physically harms her more than once. Each man stands by while she fights off opponents that require a suspension of disbelief to accept she survives (and I mean stand next to her while this happens).
All of this breaks an important compact between the author and the reader. Again, this does not feel like it’s purposeful plotting; rather, it feels like an author-inconsistency. She wanted the reader to believe something, so she repeated it over and over but was not able to substantiate it in the actual plotting. I lost trust in Storm very early, and they never regained it, never even seemed to recognize that they needed to try. All in all, I simply didn’t like the book.