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Christie Golden – On Fire’s Wings

January 15, 2010

3. On Fire’s Wings by Christie Golden (2004)
The Final Dance, Book 1

Length: 440 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Started: 06 January 2010
Finished: 08 January 2010

Where did it come from? From my LibraryThing secret santa (last year. Shame!)
Why do I have it? See above
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 December 2008.

Dreams of fire will
reveal her destiny… or
pyromania. :)

Summary: Kevla Bai-sha was born the daughter of a prostitue – a person without caste or clan in a society where those two things define most of a person’s life. One day, she is recognized in the market by her father, who is the chieftan of one of the most powerful clans in the whole of the desert nation of Arukan. He takes pity on her, and takes her into his house as a servant, without revealing to her the secret of her birth. But Kevla has secrets of her own, for beginning at puberty she starts having terrifying dreams of the Great Dragon – the keeper of Arukani morality – and of a looming darkness that threatens to swallow the world. She keeps these dreams to herself, lest she be thought demon-cursed, and there is only one person she can confide in: her half-brother, Jashemi, who has had strange dreams of his own. As they grow up together, the dreams become more and more powerful, and the worries of daily life are nothing compared to the darkness surrounding Kevla and Jashemi… and the destiny that binds them both to fight it.

Review: It was only after I finished this book that I realized that Luna Books was an imprint of Harlequin, but that fact helped clarify a lot of my reaction to it. It’s not a romance per se – although a love story does play a central role, there’s only one sex scene (more on that later), and I would never place it next to more “traditional” bodice-rippers. But, at the same time, it didn’t quite feel the way I expect epic fantasy to feel… which is vague, I know, but I can’t quite put my finger on what specifically I had a problem with.

Part of it was certainly the writing. It felt like Golden was shooting for “epic” and “mythic” in her tone, but landed instead somewhere between “overly-straightforward” and “somewhat stilted.” There’s a lot of telling rather than showing, and too much time was spent transcribing every detail of various characters’ inner monologues. On the other hand, while I wasn’t crazy about the style used to portray them, the characters were well-done: complex, interesting, and for the most part sympathetic.

The story itself was also interesting enough to keep me reading. The whole “reborn warriors called from obscurity to save the world in its last hour of peril” theme has been done before (Wheel of Time, anyone?), but Golden uses it well. Starting with a killer prologue – of the last time the Dancers were called, a time that the Shadow won – Golden builds enough detail into her world and its mythology to keep things intriguing, and moving along at a good pace.

But, there’s that niggling issue of the sex scene. Sex in fiction, even graphic sex in fiction, does not bother me. That’s not my problem. My problem is that it wasn’t just a sex scene, it was incest. And, more to the point, it was incest written in such a way that the scene was supposed to feel tender and romantic, not taboo-violating and icky, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. If you’re going to have an incest storyline in your book, I feel like it needs to have a purpose, needs to say something about your characters that can’t be said in any other way. And while Golden does clearly have a reason for why she crossed that line, it didn’t feel like enough to justify the scene as written… I felt like there should have been another way to make that same point that would have been less off-putting to readers.

But, that’s just one scene, and overall, this book was entertaining enough. It’s an interesting story, with some nice characterizations, although it felt like there was too much laid out on the surface, with not enough going on underneath. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I doubt that I’ll be actively seeking out the sequel, In Stone’s Clasp, although I probably wouldn’t be adverse to reading it if someone handed it to me. On Fire’s Wings would probably be best for folks who like their fantasy adventure stories uncomplicated and tinged with a heavy dose of (unknowingly incestuous) romance.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: I can’t find any others. Did I miss yours? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The wind, cold and scented with death, seized the queen’s hair with cruel fingers and set it to dancing.

Cover Thoughts: Lovely – I love the fire and deserts and dragons. It could have been edited down a bit – the motion lines on her hands, the scrollwork, the flames…. there’s a lot going on. But conceptually, it’s very nice.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2010 7:17 am

    Ugh. That incest storyline sounds like it was just thrown in. Definitely going to steer clear of this, thanks!

    • January 18, 2010 2:06 pm

      Omni – Well, it did have a point to it (namely, that the culture wouldn’t allow them any normal means of expressing their fated connection, so instead it flowed into inappropriate channels), but I felt like that just wasn’t enough to justify it for me.

  2. January 15, 2010 9:02 am

    Incest, yucky. …Er, though I suppose I should confess, when I used to watch Guiding Light, there was a plotline that had these two cousins (they used to say defensively, “HALF cousins”, like that made any sense) who were madly madly in love, and they were my very favorite. But, you know, it was a soap opera. They one time cloned a character.

    • January 18, 2010 2:07 pm

      Jenny – So are you saying that the soaps are *not* a good guide to acceptable social behavior? Nawww, that can’t be right. :)

  3. January 15, 2010 9:57 am

    I read this back when it first came out–Christie Golden is a writer for Buffy so I was like ‘How could this go wrong?!’–and I remember at the time thinking ‘This isn’t so bad, not what I expected but okay…’

    The whole incest storyline started out okay–mostly because the beginning of their relationship wasn’t dominated by romance, but by their connection. It was the end that had me going ‘what. the. hell?’ especially since it seemed to bother the MC more about the consequences of the sex then the fact he was her half-brother.

    I’m kind of upset that the third book never saw print publication. Its in e-book, for an astronomical price all things considered, but not in print.

    • January 18, 2010 2:07 pm

      Lexie – I did not know Golden was a writer for Buffy! Interesting.

  4. January 17, 2010 3:45 pm

    I’ve felt that about some books, where the author sounds like they are shooting to sound mythical and end up making the story very straight-forward. And sometimes that unneeded sex scene pops up where is unnecessary.

    • January 18, 2010 2:08 pm

      fyrebyrd – It wasn’t the sex scene itself that bothered me so much as the context of the sex scene.

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