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REVEW: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Running Out of Dragon Puns – Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Dragon Bound by Thea HarrisonI’m going to start this review by making a slightly embarrassing confession. Although I liked a lot about Dragon Bound, I found myself irrationally prejudiced against it by a tiny feature of the author’s writing which I’m sure any sensible reader would just look beyond.

Specifically, on about page 8, I was disproportionately bothered by the author’s use of irrealis were.

The line in question is as follows:

 “If she were in a race for her life, that roar was the starter pistol. If God were the referee, he had just shouted Go.” (p. 8)

And I know it’s two sentences, and I know that I’m talking about two words out of a whole damned novel, and I know that nothing starts an argument on the internet like a discussion of grammar, but I was eight pages in and it jerked me out of the book early. I’m usually very tolerant of non-standard and flexible uses of language. I don’t care at all whether people use “which” or “that” to introduce a restrictive relative clause. I don’t mind if people say “different than” instead of “different from”, or “a couple X” rather than “a couple of X”. The one kind of language error that really trips me up is hypercorrection – when people care so much about following the perceived rules of formal writing that they apply those rules (or variants of them) at the expense of clear, idiomatic communication.

Most speakers of English in my experience, when speaking or writing informally, use “if … was” for all expressions of uncertainty, be they hypotheticals, counterfactuals, or unknowns. In some very formal contexts, some people consider it more appropriate to use “were” when dealing with explicitly counterfactual situations (“if I were you” being an example that sees relatively common use even in informal speech). It is not, as far as I know, ever used for metaphors or situations of simple uncertainty like “if she were in a race for her life” or (from later in the book) “she wondered if Keith were still alive”. Harrison is pretty consistent about her use of were, I’ve just checked on my ebook there literally isn’t a single “if … was” construction in the entire text which seems to imply that she or her editor believe that you just have to use “were” after “if” regardless of context. This doesn’t mesh with my understanding of standard English, and even when the usage is technically correct it creates a jarringly formal tone that is completely at odds with the rest of the narration or dialogue.

Okay, I promise I will stop nitpicking now and talk about, y’know, the actual book. As ever, this will involve spoilers.

So Pia Giovanni is the orphaned daughter of a mysterious (but beautiful) Wyr – a member of a diverse species of shapeshifters which includes not only your typical animal shifters (like wyrwolves, wyrbears, and – it is strongly implied – wyrmarmosets) but also more mystical beings like griffins, harpies and of course dragons (well, one dragon). She starts the book having been blackmailed by her dickhead ex-boyfriend into stealing from the hoard of the great dragon Dragos Cuelebre, who naturally isn’t best pleased about this. With the help of her boss Quentin she flees to the lands of the Elves (in Charleston, South Carolina). Dragos tracks her down, but she calls for elvish backup, which results in Dragos getting poisoned, then they get grabbed by goblins on the way back to New York, then they escape, then they spend quite a lot of time just sort of hanging out and shagging, then she gets captured again, then she escapes-slash-is-rescued, and that’s sort of it.

In a very indirect way (and I apologise for the tenuous nature of this analogy) the pacing of Dragon Bound reminded me a lot of the pacing of the original Baldur’s Gate. It’s very tightly focused at the beginning, with a clear direction and a strong set of goals, but then you finally get to the big city, and even though you’ve got a clear idea of who the bad guy is and where he’s based, suddenly everything slows down and spreads out and it’s all sidequests and looking for missing boots.

Okay, that analogy got away from me a bit. What I meant to say was that I found about the first forty-five percent of the book to be quite tightly paced with a clear idea of what the stakes were for all parties. Pia’s flight from, and capture by Dragos, their sojourn in Charleston, the attack by goblins, their capture and escape followed by the revelation that the whole situation had been orchestrated by Urien, King of the Dark Fae as part of an elaborate attempt on Dragos’ life was all very exciting and focused. Then just as they find out that Dragos’ mortal enemy has made a concerted effort to destroy him once and for all, and that Pia was to be a tool of his destruction, everything just sort of … stops.

The next forty-five percent of the novel (I read this one on Kindle, so I only really tracked progress in percentages) just lost all sense of progress for me. Dragos brings Pia back to Cuelebre tower and she … sort of hangs out? They have sex a lot, and Dragos talks a fair bit about how there’s totally going to be a war with Urien, but everybody seems significantly more interested in his relationship with Pia. There’s a lot of speculation about exactly what Pia’s wyr-form is going to be (I should really have guessed this one, because it retrospect it’s kind of obvious) and a lot of interaction between Pia and various members of Dragos’ entourage but it all feels a bit aimless after the breathless pursuit of the first half.

It’s only in the final ten percent of the book that we start getting, well, events again. Urien finally takes some action and abducts Pia (although strangely he doesn’t use her as a way to get to Dragos – he actually still thinks the two of them are enemies and only abducted her on spec). This all seemed to be resolved very quickly, with Pia getting rescued almost before I’d got used to the idea that she’d been captured.

I had a mixed time overall with Dragon Bound. I quite liked Pia, and I was surprisingly okay with Dragos despite the fact that he had all the controlling, possessive, asshole traits that usually really put me off a hero. I think, like Wrath in The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Dragos (who also has a pretty animated erection, now I come to think about it) is just so turned up to eleven that it’s hard to be bothered by his behaviour. I’ve only partly been keeping count, but I think Dragos is actually the most over-the-top hero I’ve encountered so far. Not only is he six-foot-eight in his human form (six-foot-eight seems to be a go-to height for a particular type of paranormal alpha-hero) but by my calculations he’s actually something like five billion years old. He’s not only older than the heroine, he’s older than amino acids. He’s nigh indestructible, richer than most countries, wipes out armies single-handedly and can maintain an erection more or less indefinitely. He’s also kind of ahead of the game when it comes to paranormal instalove – I’ve just about got used to heroes who obsess about the heroine as soon as they’ve met her, but Dragos manages to fixate on Pia as a result of smelling her. Once. On a till receipt.

Right from the outset he basically makes Pia the centre of his universe, and while I get why that sort of thing can be romantic, it all just seems a bit extreme. Probably his lowest moment boyfriend-wise is the bit where he has a jealous freakout at his own second in command because he sees said second-in-command sparring with Pia (which he is doing on Dragos’ direct personal orders) and their unarmed combat reminds him vaguely of a sexual position. And on the subject of sexual positions … gosh there’s a lot of shagging in this one. I don’t think it’s so much the frequency of the sexual encounters as their, umm, intensity. It’s not even that they’re particularly explicit, it’s just that they’re remarkably enthusiastic and rather … long? Dragos and Pia first get it together while they’re escaping from an army of goblins, and they spend rather more time exploring the various permutations of boinking open to them than I would have thought entirely prudent when running for one’s life. This pattern of behaviour continues after their first escape from the Dark Fae, with Dragos devoting far more time to spurting his climax into Pia than to – say – actually dealing with Urien in any way.

I think for a large part of the book I struggled to work out where the narrative tension was supposed to be coming from. The book contains a lot of potential sources of conflict, there’s Urien, there’s Pia’s interactions with the members of the Wyr court, there’s the mystery about Pia’s Wyr form, which will apparently cause people to hunt her down if they find out what she is. But none of these things really developed into an arc I could get behind. Urien seems profoundly non-threatening, the Wyr court are hostile to Pia for about eight seconds before deciding that she’s actually awesomesauce (except for Aryal the harpy who irrationally hates her) and after spending most of the book highlighting the importance of nobody finding out what Pia really is … nobody finds out what Pia really is. I mean, Dragos and his lieutenants do, but normally when a book goes to great lengths to explain that it would be really bad if Thing X happened I kind of expect Thing X to happen at some point.

Part of me almost respects the book for this. After all, we’re told in no uncertain terms that Pia and her mother put a huge amount of time and effort into hiding what Pia was, and for that matter making sure that most people don’t even believe that things like Pia exist in the world any more, so it sort of makes sense that they … well … succeeded. In a way it reminds me of that running joke in Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade where people keep looking at the chandelier and saying “wow, I hope that doesn’t fall down, because that would cause really serious problems” and it never actually does. But it still meant that yet another source of potential conflict just kind of slipped by unexploited.

The final unresolved conflict in the book is Urien’s Agent Amongst the Elves. It’s made clear pretty early on that he, well, has one and there’s speculation right until the end about who it might be and what it might mean for it to be one person rather than another. And maybe the spy in the Elven Court is revealed in a later book, but since Urien is fairly emphatically killed in the closing chapters of this one it seems a little bit irrelevant.

I should probably stress at this juncture that a lot of this is just my personal preferences and preconceptions. Particularly when it comes to the fantastical, I still carry over a lot of assumptions from reading in other genres, so I get quite thrown when books focus more on personalities than on events. I do actually see that the interactions between Pia and Dragos, the conflict between his ancient solitary instincts, her deeply ingrained fear of capture or discovery, and their mutual powerful attraction, could be enough to carry the book for a person more interested in the relationship and less interested in the action. It’s just that for me it never quite came together.

Towards the end of the book (before the kidnapping, but after the bulk of the sex) Pia’s Wyr form is revealed. I’d been looking forward to this, because I was interested to see how it would switch up the dynamic between her and Dragos. Most of the other Wyr-creatures are, after all, large and powerful and majestic and the book had routinely emphasised Pia’s relative smallness and fragility compared to the massive, manly Dragos. I sort of expected that this would change once she got her Wyr-form.

Not so much:

 She was the size of a small Shetland pony, but she was as far different from a pony as a greyhound was from a Saint Bernard.

By comparison, Dragos’ Lieutenants are the size of SUVs and the man himself is the size of a private jet. But Pia, well, let’s just get a visual on this:

Shetland Pony

This sort of killed any hope I had of taking Pia’s Wyr-nature seriously as a plot element. There’s just nothing noble or majestic about something so, well, tiny. And I appreciate that she isn’t supposed to have the actual proportions of a Shetland pony, but that makes it even more bizarre. Something with the proportions of a showhorse which never the less only comes to waist height on the average person would just look like it had been badly computer scaled.

I really wasn’t sure what was going on with the pony thing (I think maybe US Shetlands are bigger than UK Shetlands, but only by a few inches). It felt uncomfortably like the author was terrified that giving the heroine a Wyr-form that was was the size you’d expect for the creature she was would make her look unfeminine.

I felt a little bad that I didn’t like Dragon Bound more than I did, because it has a lot to recommend it. The hero and heroine are both pretty cool in their own ways (I liked that Pia was kind of low-key kinky without it being a big deal or evidence of some deep inner trauma). The world is well-realised and original (it’s sort of minor, but I really liked that the goblins came in a range of shapes and sizes), although I’d have liked to see more of the setting beyond Cuelebre tower. The supporting cast is fairly extensive, and seems to be stocked with interesting characters whose stories are presumably explored in more detail in future books (book two seems to be about Tricks the PR Fairy and Tiago the thunderbird). And the sex, while a little … exhaustive … for my tastes is still pretty hot. It’s just that there were enough little bits and pieces that didn’t work for me to keep me from really getting into the story.

 Everything I learned about life and love from reading Dragon Bound: If you steal from a dragon, don’t leave a receipt. The best time to have sex is when you’re being chased by an army of monsters. It’s dangerous to wrestle with your boss’ girlfriend. Shapeshifting is a natural contraceptive, but not a terribly reliable one.

36 Comments

  1. LeeF
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 12:35:43

    As always- hilarious!

  2. Sarah Frantz
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 12:53:28

    I have not read this book, so…she’s really a tiny horse? Like, really? Why is this such a big deal?

  3. JJPP
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 13:04:40

    @Sarah Frantz: IIRC, she’s not actually a miniature pony. I think that’s just how big she is in Wyr form.

    I always use “if… were!” Is that really incorrect?

  4. jmc
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 13:07:29

    Thanks for sharing your opinion of this book. It’s been on my TBR…maybe I’ll pick it up now.

    I always used “if…was” and never used “if…were” until I hit college, where more than one foreign language and/or ESOL instructor pointed out that it was incorrect usage. And then went on to remind me that it also caused confusion when translating to/from English and proper understanding of the subjunctive.

  5. Robin/Janet
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:15:56

    @jmc: I’ve always been taught and in turn taught students to recognize the subjunctive. In fact, one of the first books I edited was a lit fic novel for a publisher that adhered to the Chicago Manual of Style, which, of course, also recognizes it. I spent many hours going back and forth with the author about which of his phrases should be articulated in the subjunctive and which should not. And, I should add, HE was driving this dialogue, because he was very insistent that the subjunctive be used and used correctly in the novel. Not that I wasn’t as insistent — it was just interesting (and kind of inspiring) to see a young author (and this was his first novel) so concerned about getting it right.

  6. Ros
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:16:24

    @JJPP: ‘If… were’ is usually correct, yes. But most people use the ‘incorrect’ form, ‘if… was’. So it all depends on who is speaking. If the character is an English teacher, I’d expect them to use ‘if…were’. In many other cases, not, particularly in dialogue. But it wouldn’t bother me much either way, personally.

  7. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:23:05

    I notice that the objections to “if…were” as either dated or incorrect come from Cambridge. In American English, “if…were” is correct and preferred. I would bet most Americans know the difference and what’s correct, but “If…was” is still common in speech where someone is favoring getting a point across over grammar.

    Please remember: British English != American English, and this novel is by an American author adhering to American grammar.

  8. Karenmc
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:26:14

    “He’s not only older than the heroine, he’s older than amino acids.”

    Now I can end my week smirking. Thank you.

  9. Sarah Frantz
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:36:01

    @Moriah Jovan: I’d have to disagree. I think American English, at least, is trending heavily toward dropping the “if…were” construction completely. My students and even some of my colleagues found it deeply confusing when I used it. To them, it sounds archaic at best, and wrong at worst.

  10. AJH
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:39:58

    @LeeF:

    Glad you liked it :)

    @Sarah Frantz:

    She’s not actually a horse, she’s a horse-like mythical being, which is apparently much smaller than ordinary horses :)

    @JJPP:

    First of all, I’m not a linguist so please take everything I say with a pinch of salt but my understanding is that if/were is correct (and by ‘correct’ I mean ‘formal’) for explicitly counter factual situations. For what it’s worth, I tend to get my language terminology from Geoff Pullum who co-edits the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language so, for example, I don’t use “subjunctive” to describe irrealis were, though some people do. It’s certainly acceptable in standard, informal spoken English to say if/was. In some formal contexts, in some cases, if/were is preferable. But it isn’t true in *all* cases.

    My very limited understanding is that if you wouldn’t say “were” in the present tense, you don’t say it in any tense, if you see what I mean? So, for example, in the present tense you’d say “I don’t know if he is dead”, you wouldn’t say “I don’t know if he were dead”. And, so in the past, you would say “I didn’t know if he was dead” not “I didn’t know if he were dead.”

    Having said that, I’m not an authority.

    @jmc:

    Glad you liked the review – hope you enjoy the book.

    For what it’s worth, from a descriptive point of view if/was is not incorrect usage, it’s just informal usage.

    @Ros:

    Sorry to butt in on this one but, again, there’s a distinction between “correct” and “formal.” It’s not wrong to say “if I was a policeman” or “if I was rich” rather than “if I were a policeman” or “if I were rich” – it depends entirely on register. But, as you observe, most people use the informal form, so I find it very jarring when an otherwise very informal text uses one extremely specific aspect of formal register.

  11. Meri
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:45:48

    I read Dragon Bound a while back, and even though it wasn’t bad, it convinced me that I just wan’t meant to read PNR – my response was pretty similar to yours in that it was just too much and too over the top for me.

    A wyrmarmoset would be awesome, though.

  12. AJH
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:55:26

    @Moriah Jovan:

    As far as I know, the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language is not British-English specific – it’s a general descriptive text written by an international team (Geoff Pullum is American for a start).

    I’ve also never said that if/were is generally incorrect, just that it’s formal. And, as you yourself observe, people (even American people as far as I know) favour if/was in speech which, by definition makes it the standard construction. This isn’t people using incorrect grammar to get a point across, this is perfectly correct grammar. And, for what it’s worth, a lot of English people also think if/were is Right and if/was is Wrong, but this belief does not reflect common usage.

    @Karenmc:

    Glad to have amused you. Dragos definitely contravenes the half your age plus seven rule.

  13. Darlynne
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 14:56:33

    … he’s older than amino acids. Awesome, although the pony picture almost did me in for a close second-place.

    Please tell me you have Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon on your TBR mountain radar. Please?

  14. Karenmc
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 15:14:46

    @AJH: There’s a broken rule? Even smirkier!

  15. Joy
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 15:59:09

    Hilarious review as always! Regarding the grammar, I think of “if…were” as correct, and “if…was” always snaps me out of the book! But most of my favorite authors do it anyway, including Nalini Singh and Patricia Briggs. I suppose as an author you just can’t win that one.
    My favorite part of this book was when she pretended to order a pizza to get rescued after she was captured. What are you reviewing next week?

  16. PeggyL
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 16:44:04

    That amino acid quote is going to stick with me for a while!

    Ah English grammar – learning that at school was such a long time ago and it seems the learning is continuous – a subject that fascinates me always. I’m not a native speaker of English, so I guess I have a higher tolerance towards what’s proper/formal or otherwise in speech as well as the written form. (Pardon the “bad” syntax!) So the if/were-thing totally passed me by. Besides, I was taught *that’s* the way it should be (“unreal past tense”).

    As to the novel, I actually enjoyed it very much. I read and re-read it back to back; I loved it so much that right after the re-read, I sought out other dragon-themed romances to get my fix (DRAGON ACTUALLY was one of them, actually). Then I learnt that there was to be a sequel featuring (a pregnant) Pia and (the same old) Dragos and the wait had been excruciating to say the least.  Meanwhile, there were books and novellas in between featuring the sentinels and sundry characters of the Elder Races.  I bought all of the full-length novels but have yet to read any of them because of the W-A-I-T.  (At the time, I totally avoided paranormals.)  In the end, the wait was worthwhile in that I wasn’t disappointed with LORD’S FALL and the “missing” story arcs or politics in the Elders universe did not affect my enjoyment of Pia and Dragos’ follow-up story. 

    So, *if* you want to cure your read-in-order syndrome, I think reading LORD’S FALL is just the appropriate treatment.  Yes, over-the-top, Dragos is; but his dedication to Pia is touching. I can (almost) overlook the disparity (size, age, power, species, etc.) between the two just because he loves her (doesn’t recognize it until very late) and cares for her (overbearingly most of the time).

    Okay, time for another re-read. And thank you for the review, though you don’t like the story as much as I do.

  17. leslie
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 16:59:33

    This book drove me crazy for many of the same reasons. Suspension of disbelief was impossible. Dragos’ behavior was too over the top even for the realm of PNR alpha hole. Pia was fun and I liked the mystery surrounding her wyr being, but their relationship read like a sex farce and not a very good one.
    SPOILER:
    I loved the penny theft premise though, and Dragos’ tantrum, it was very funny!

    The next book is really TSTL. The heroine is not even five feet tall and the hero, if I remember correctly is about seven feet tall. Just so ridiculous……and creepy!
    I did like Harrison’s Oracle’s Moon, the heroine is scrappy and the hero is a djinn. Different to be sure.

    Thanks for the great review!

  18. Angela
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 17:21:05

    Awesome review, as always. I read this long ago because it was getting rave reviews everywhere and everyone had something to say about it – all positive. I finished it wondering what the hell I was missing.

    I do actually see that the interactions between Pia and Dragos, the conflict between his ancient solitary instincts, her deeply ingrained fear of capture or discovery, and their mutual powerful attraction, could be enough to carry the book for a person more interested in the relationship and less interested in the action. It’s just that for me it never quite came together.

    This! Yes. That was a large part of my problem. Another was how absolutely stupid the Bad Guy was – too stupid to be Evil. I couldn’t deal with that. And Pia’s wyr form – I guessed the first time it was mentioned that she was some rare, mythical thing. At that point the only thing keeping me reading was hoping the author was going to shock me and make her something different. That didn’t happen though.

  19. Marianne McA
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 18:38:37

    Yes, I read this recently after someone mentioned that this was Amanda Carpenter under another name: I’d always wondered if she’d kept writing because I thought she had a real gift for it.
    But while this was readable, I never got past the five billion year old thing. Not so much the age difference between the couple, more just that the character didn’t feel like an entity of that magnitude. Just stupid things like the way he spoke: you didn’t get the sense of the richness of language that you would expect from someone who had lived through the evolution of language. And frankly, if it takes billions of years for it to occur to you that it might be nice to be polite to your friends, you’re not going to be an easy bloke to live with.

  20. Ducky
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 18:43:25

    I remember trying to read this a while ago and giving up on it. I think for the most part I am missing the genes that let you enjoy paranormal romance. Oddly enough I have always enjoyed reading Fantasy, so I am not a complete supernatural party pooper.

    I am staying out of the grammar debate. “If were” looks “wrong” to me (which doesn’t mean it is wrong or the other is right). I am one of those pathetic people whose idea of grammar is looking at a sentence/word and if it looks right to me I go with it – I call it the flying by the seat of my pants approach to grammar.

  21. Jenna
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 19:09:19

    Okay, this was hilarious. I’m reading all of your reviews in the future because you are awesome!

  22. bamaclm
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 19:24:00

    I had a friend in nursing school who was 4’11″, if that. Her husband was 6’7″. Somehow they fit together and made beautiful babies. They loved each other dearly and were loads of fun. :-)

  23. Susan
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 19:53:27

    Another Friday! Yay! I didn’t have popcorn, but did eat cereal out of the box while reading this. Close enough. Your reviews are pure entertainment.

    I, too, loved the amino acids quote. I should start keeping a list of this stuff. It’s all so educational for me. I’m still hoping to someday work “pillock” into a conversation, even if no one knows what it means. Or maybe I should save it for those uplifting discussions I have with other drivers.

    BTW, I don’t think you can continue to call yourself a romance newbie since you keep reading books I’ve never read (or, sometimes, even heard of). This book was on my TBR list. Well, it probably still is, but will have to go down quite a few notches now.

    Can’t wait ’til next week. I’ll have my cereal ready.

  24. Victoria Paige
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 20:47:05

    Dragon Bound is one of my favorite paranormal romances. The reason he was making Pia the center of his universe and why he was insanely jealous during her sparring match with his second in command was because they were in the mating frenzy. In most paranormal romance books mating=insanely jealous alpha males. :)
    Anyway, Pia becomes THE mythical horse creature, I was so blown away with what she was.

    No wonder I get so confuse with If…were… thanks for the clarification. When I don’t think of it,’ if she were’ sounds correct, but I keep on thinking grammatically it should be ‘if she was’. Glad I’m not the only one confused about the usage.

  25. JL
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 21:15:39

    Wow. This review captured absolutely everything I felt about this book. I’ve read a few more in the series because the author clearly has some talent, but I certainly have not enjoyed her books as I thought I would based on all the rave reviews.

  26. Cassia
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 21:23:54

    I really really like Thea Harrison’s books. I think “Oracle’s Moon” is the shiznit. She captures the tenderness between lovers very well, in my opinion.

  27. Kaetrin
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 22:09:29

    I’ve enjoyed this whole series, although I listened to it, so it’s hard to tell what difference that makes.

    I really liked how Dragos had to learn to say “please”. He’d never had a “relationship” before. There hadn’t been any kind of partnership for him previously and it amused me greatly to hear him begin to come to grips with it. I really enjoyed the Sentinels too and I’m happy to hear that my favourite of them, Graydon, will be getting his book soon.

    I know what you mean about the action, break for hanging out, action thing – but this works for me. I see it differently to you but I can’t say if it’s common to romance readers/PNR readers generally or if it’s just me. I see it as action, bedding down the relationship, action. And that bedding down is crucial to me. That bit where nothing was happening, was, for me, where lots of things happened but they were internal relationshippy things. It’s the part where Dragos and Pia (in this case) had to learn how to get along when things weren’t dire and they were in danger/under threat. And it’s the part where *I* decide if I can believe they are supposed to be together. Or something. :)

    At the time it came out, it felt refreshing and different to a lot of PNR which was available then, but in any event the alchemy which is reader and book (& also narrator) worked really well for me. I had a lot of fun with it.

    Thx for another entertaining review. I always enjoy your take on things. Not just because they amuse (which they do) but they very often make me think. Now I shall go and Google “irrealis”.

  28. AJH
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 05:22:16

    @Meri:

    Obviously I’m not really in a position to say whether DRAGON BOUND is typical of the sub-genre. From my limited understanding a lot of the more over the top tropes are very much part of PNR. Things like the irresistible supernatural attraction to your partner, the sheer size and manliness of the heroes and so on.

    (I’m not sure if THE SMOKE THIEF counts as PNR or fantasy romance but, of the dragon-based romances, it’s been the one I’ve enjoyed the most – it’s still got the supernatural attraction thing, and Christoff is an alpha dragon, but it’s much less overtly whacked out).

    @Darlynne:

    I’ve actually already read HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON (although it’s called TEMERAIRE over here) – and I really liked it. Hornblower stuff with dragons, you can’t go wrong can you? I wouldn’t categorise it as a romance though, I thought it was pure fantasy, although this might be getting us into the difficult boundary between romantic fantasy and fantasy romance. I’ve only read the first four or so books of the series – I sort of felt, by then, I knew what it was doing and it didn’t seem to be doing anything else to sustain my engagement. I’ve been told it picks up again, but y’know, a TBR out the wazoo.

    @Karenmc:

    Is “half your age plus seven” just a UK thing?

    @Joy:

    Glad you enjoyed the review. As I mentioned above, I’m 95% certain that – in British and American English – if/were is only “correct” in some contexts. Roughly speaking, my understanding is that if you wouldn’t say if/were in present tense, then you don’t say it in past either. Like, you wouldn’t say “if I were in a race for my life, that roar is the starting pistol” in present tense. You’d say “if I am in a race for my life, that roar is the starting pistol.”

    The pizza sequence was really cool – I poked a lot quite a lot of reviews of this one, because I found it quite difficult and one of the things that annoyed some people about the book is that the heroine starts off being very capable (like with the pizza thing) but that sort of all goes away once she and Dragos start shagging.

    Next week is … oh God … next week is BARED TO YOU.

    @PeggyL:

    I’m really into language in general – I really didn’t mean to start a barney. At the risk grossly overstepping my bounds, I think people do get taught wrong grammar, both native speakers and ESL. A lot of the way you describe it (unreal past tense) suggests to me that you were actually taught the correct rule, which is to use were in formal contexts for unreal (counter-factual) situations, not for all uncertain situations. Obviously, I’m really careful about using correct and wrong in this context because, as we’ve seen, seem to use “wrong” to mean informal.

    I can definitely that there’s a lot that DRAGON BOUND gets right, and that there’s a lot in it that people who were into that sort of thing would be into – but it just didn’t quite come together for me. I liked it a lot more than DRAGON ACTUALLY but not nearly as much as THE SMOKE THIEF (which is my favourite of the dragony romances I’ve read) or ANGEL’S BLOOD, to which it’s often compared.

    I think re-visiting the relationship would help with some of the things I found difficult in the book, particularly the fact that their entire relationship unfolds over five days. On the other hand, what mostly tripped me up was the plot. This makes me sound like terrible romance reader but I’m less interested in finding out what happens to Pia and Dragos, than in finding out what the hell was going on with Urien’s agent in the elven court.

    @leslie:

    That was more or less my reaction, but I think I was more willing to go with it in general. I’ve read some really ludicrous books in my time, so my suspension of disbelief threshold is pretty high. I thought the penny thing was cute, although a cynical part of me wonders whether it isn’t sort of a moral copout to stop the heroine doing anything bad.
    I was torn about whether I want to give the next book a look or not. I’m quite interested in seeing Tricks’ arc because of what happens with her at the end of the first book, but my white boy guilt reflexes make me very timorous about romances with native American protagonists because I feel that could get very appropriative very quickly (I say this as someone who has not read the book and is in no way judging people who have).

    @Angela:

    Thank you :)

    As I said above, I read quite a lot of reviews of this and there seemed to be something of a split between “this is the best thing ever” and “I really don’t understand why everyone is saying this is the best thing ever.”

    I’m not sure whether I thought Urien was stupid or not, actually. I certainly thought he was unthreatening but something I almost found interesting was the fact that at no point did he think Pia was an important part of the equation. In a weird way, I felt the ending made Dragos look like a bit of an idiot because he takes out Urien so easily that I was sort of left sitting there going “dude, you could have done that at any time.” I mean, he’s been banging on about how much he wants to take Urien down for the whole book and, apparently, he was entirely capable of just flying up to the guy and eating him.
    Embarrassingly, as I said in the review, I didn’t quite get Pia’s wyrform. I think I was second guessing myself too much.

    @Marianne McA:

    I’m sorry, I’m hopeless – but I have no idea who Amanda Carpenter is.

    And frankly, if it takes billions of years for it to occur to you that it might be nice to be polite to your friends, you’re not going to be an easy bloke to live with.

    Hee! To be honest, I don’t think ‘easy bloke to leave with’ was ever going to be on the table.

    I’m a bit torn about the five billion years old thing because I’m worried it’s me being too literal. Thinking about it, a lot of paranormals are set on quite young earths – a lot of them semi-explicitly have the war in heaven going down about six thousand years ago – so it’s possible that Dragos was actually a sprightly spring chicken, only a few thousand years old. In the end, I just kind of went with the whole ancient immortal thing. I play a lot of roleplaying games so I’m pretty used to ancient beings of divine power basically sounding like me and my mates and, for that matter, I’m not sure I’ve read a paranormal yet in which an ancient immortal being really comes across as an ancient immortal being. To be honest, I’m not even sure what it would come across like.

  29. AJH
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 05:53:05

    @Ducky:

    In some ways, I think I’m finding there’s not a lot of overlap between the things people like about fantasy and the things people like about PNR. I think a lot of the time what sells fantasy is plot and world and “ideas” (whatever they are), whereas what sells PNR, as I understand it, is the characters and the relationship. In particular, I think it’s often about the intensity of the relationship. I don’t think this is 100% true always but that kind of literally supernaturally powerful attraction is, I think, part of the appeal for a lot of people. Strangely, I feel like it overlaps a lot with the girls and billionaires genre – I don’t think it’s accident that 50 started out as TWILIGHT fanfic.

    For what it’s worth, as I understand it, what looks right to native speakers is a much better definition of correct grammar than many people would have you believe.

    @Jenna:

    Awww, thank you. I’m here every week, try the veal.

    @bamaclm:

    Aww, they sound like a lovely couple. :)

    It wasn’t the size difference that threw me (I’m six ft and change and I’ve dated people who were 5 ft 2, and it worked perfectly well). The only time the heroine’s smallness confused me was when she was actually in her wyr-form because then, suddenly, she was tiny by the standards of the thing she turned into.

    @Susan:

    I’m really glad you’re still enjoying the reviews, with or without popcorn :)

    I highly recommend the word pillock, although to be honest I’m not sure what it means either, apart from being generically pejorative. Based on no evidence whatsoever (and I guess I could look it up in the OED but how would that be fun) I suspect it’s one of the world’s many penis-based insults.

    I’m not sure when I get to stop calling myself a newbie – it’s difficult because I understand a lot of romance readers are very very voracious and one book a week just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve not even read a book with a secret baby or a sheik in it yet.

    @Victoria Paige:

    I can totally see why you’d be into DRAGON BOUND. And I do, on a rational level, understand that mating frenzy / destined lover trope. It just doesn’t quite work for me on an emotional level. I think it might partly be a gender thing (again, I’m really hesitant to apply gendered readings to romance novels) but I just can’t see very aggressive, very heavily muscled, crazy jealousy men as anything but threatening. These are the guys who tried to beat me up at school. It’s hard to get from there to sexy, at least not without expressing that tension directly (I guess it could work, theoretically, in m/m).

    As I said in the review, I thought Pia’s wyrform was pretty cool. Just that it was a little bit, well, small. And I know it’s what you do with it that counts but I just don’t think chibi is a good look for a heroine.
    Also, please do take my language comments with a pinch of salt. I’m pretty sure I’m right on this one but I’m not a linguist, I’m just interested.

    @JL:

    Thanks. I was quite confused by my response to DRAGON BOUND as well because lots of people really really like it, so it’s really nice to know that I haven’t just totally missed the point.

    @Cassia:

    Good use of the word shiznit :)

    I really can see why you’d enjoy the books but, to be honest, given my lukewarm response to DRAGON BOUND, I don’t think the series is for me.

    @Kaetrin:

    God, I’m rubbish, I can’t even remember which one Graydon was. Is the one who is initially hostile to Pia but then grows to respect her? Beyond that, I can’t remember anything about him.

    I can see these books had a lot going for them and, to give Dragos his due, he does get better – it’s just that better, from where he starts, is still pretty alpholey. Your point about the bedding down makes a lot of sense and, in some books, I felt that worked really well because I felt that the bedding down took place at times when the action had meaningfully eased off. For example in THE IRON DUKE a lot of it happens when they’re on a long airship journey, in DRIVEN, which I’ve just finished, a lot of it happens while they’re waiting for their enemies to attack them, whereas in DRAGON BOUND it felt like Dragos was supposed to be going after Urien but wasn’t. Also, their first sex scene takes place while they’re being chased by an army.
    Glad you enjoyed the review – and, like I say, I can see why you liked the book so much. Can I just ask, because obviously I’m not very familiar with the history of the genre, in what it differed from the rest of the subgenre? It only came out a couple of years ago and, to me, it seems very like other books of its type that I’ve read.

    Good luck with your google … and I’m sorry.

  30. Kaetrin
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 06:32:46

    @AJH Jane could probably articulate it better than I but from memory, it was something to do with all the vampires and werewolves around at the time.

    Off topic a bit, if you are interested in reading a non appropriative Native American character and adding to your Romantic Suspense repertoire at the same time, I’d recommend Naked Edge by Pamela Clare. It’s part of her I-Team series but the books are only loosely linked and don’t have to be read in order as there is no over arching story arc. They work well as stand alone books. The heroine is half Navajo and her culture is a significant part of the characterisation. It’s really good too.

  31. KimMarie
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 09:36:24

    Great review and I agree with everything you said (except the grammar discussion – the one thing that wasn’t a problem for me). I quit reading this book after the action slowed down – when Dragos dragged her off to his place. The first half of the book was great and then . . . . not only was it slow, but it was silly – as you so eloquently pointed out. I’ve read lots of PNR and a fair amount of Fantasy, so I know it doesn’t have to be this way.

    The numbers of great reviews for this book and series have astounded me, and made me a little sad. It’s often identified as a great series if you’re looking for more PNR – which makes me think that as the popularity of PNR has increased the quality has gone downhill.

  32. Cleo
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 09:52:58

    @AJH – re F vs PNR, I think part of it depends on the reader. I read a lot of sf/f in my youth and I mostly focused on the relationships and characters. When I started reading PNR I found a lot of popar books to be too weak in the worldbuilding or plotting or concepts for me. Sometimes, if I really like the characters I can roll with the lack but not always. That’s why I love Meljean Brook and Nalini Singh so much.

    We do have the half your age plus seven thing in the US too.

  33. Jane
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 10:17:53

    @Kaetrin and @AJH – yes Dragon Bound felt very fresh to me. I’ve a preference for dark characters to act dark and I enjoyed the push/pull between the characters.

    It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Dragon Bound resonates the same way that Iron Duke, Driven, or Nalini Singh’s books do. Those are all titles I’ve enjoyed tremendously and I think are very different than many of the PNR titles at the time and even now.

    The characterizations read richer, the world building is deeper and has a direct impact on the conflict.

  34. kamlin
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 10:54:13

    i love Thea Harrisons’ books…. especially and in particular Dragon Bound and the Oracle… .
    Hey its pure escapism , i dont overthink it and i absolutely adore Dragos, alpha to the max and super yummy….

  35. AJH
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 05:45:15

    @Kaetrin:

    Oh, that sounds really interesting. I have far too many books to read but I’ll probably get onto it eventually – thank you for the rec :)

    @KimMarie:

    I was okay with the silly, it was the slow I had trouble with. From what I’ve seen, this book seems to be quite polarising: people seem to either think it’s amazing or, well, not. I’m not sure, but I think as genres get more popular, they tend to include more elements which aren’t necessarily the things that originally appealed to the core readership.

    It’s a bit a stretch, but I really like the Mass Effect series of video games but, one of the things I noticed, was that while it was billed as an RPG series, as it got more popular, it started to include far more cover-shooter mechanics and far fewer RPG elements. I guess the point is the RPG audience is already there, so you might as well try to appeal to people who are outside that market.

    So I’m not sure it’s about quality so much as preference. A small, clearly defined subgenre is very likely to overlap strongly with the tastes of the people who read but, as the genre grows and broadens, it’s naturally going to start including texts which don’t appeal to some members of the original fanbase.

    @Cleo:

    I think that’s actually consistent with what I was trying to say – even if your primary interests as a reader are not plotting and worldbuilding, the primary interests of the genre are, so those things tend to be presented in more detail. Which means that, when you cross-over, you notice the lack, even if it’s not what you thought you were looking for. But, yes, I’m a big fan of Brook and Singh as well, almost for precisely that reason, actually, strong world building and strong characterisation. For what it’s worth, I suspect the next time I read a fantasy novel, having had this sojourn into romance, I’ll probably find the lack of characterisation somewhat jarring.

    @Jane:
    I honestly had a much stronger response to Brook, Silver and Singh. For me, Dragos didn’t really particularly read as dark so much as kind of petty. As I think I’ve said before, I poked around a lot of reviews of this one because I had trouble with it and a fairly common complaint from people who didn’t like the book is that Dragos came across as very toothless – although, obviously, toothlessness is kind of in the eye of beholder.

    Before he turns up, Pia is absolutely terrified he’s going to catch her and eat her, but I never really got the sense that he actually would. The moment he drops on top of her, she’s all “he’s so hot” not “I’m so dead.” Obviously there’s a tricky balancing act here because you have to trust that the hero won’t hurt the heroine (because that’s a deal breaker for a lot of people) but, at the same time, you have to believe he’s the sort of person he could because that’s who he’s supposed to be.

    I’m also quite surprised that you felt the conflict was rooted in the world building. I agree that it is in THE IRON DUKE and DRIVEN and the various bits of Singh I’ve read but, to me, the conflict in DRAGON BOUND came almost entirely from the character’s personalities. I suppose you could see Pia’s anxiety as being partially grounded in world building elements because they come from the secret of her wryform as it were but, to me, that felt like flavour text. She was raised on the run but the supernatural basis of that didn’t seem terribly important to me. And all of the political stuff with the demesnes and the courts and Urien and that just seemed a bit irrelevant.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do see why people like this book, it’s just, to me, it doesn’t seem similar to the things that other people seem to think it’s similar to.

    @kamlin:

    Yeah, I do probably overthink things. I can completely see why people enjoy DRAGON BOUND, particularly if they’re into alpha heroes. To give him credit, Dragos is probably one of the most likeable alphatastic heroes I’ve read so far.

  36. Lege Artis
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 03:58:05

    Priceless. :)

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