Aerial dragon battles. A girl with a cool mystical powers. Cute boys on motorbikes. What more could you ask for in a fun and fluffy paranormal book?
Flying Blind took me completely by surprise. The story follows ZoŽ Sorensson, the only female dragon shapeshifter in existence, who has important duties to assume when she comes to maturity. The problem is, her powers haven't bloomed properly and the few times they begin to appear--in the form of a mesmerizing flame in the pupils of her eyes and a single curved talon--she can't control them. As a result, she's shipped off to dragon "boot camp" where she's huddled with a group of dragon boys she's known all her life, including Nick, the attractive guy whom she may be destined to be with.
The dragon lore is exceptionally well thought-out, with specific behaviors and mythology. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the different dragons, from a green one with silver-tipped scales to a beautiful garnet and gold one to a regal pewter and purple one with silver accents. The dragon battles are also very easy to picture, with muscular physical tussling, claw-slashing, orange-flamed fire-breathing, and tail-whomping--and with none of the typical fast-healing, "easy fix" powers to lessen the stakes.
ZoŽ is a bright, funny heroine who narrates in a breezy tone that's immensely appealing. She's attempting to gain control of her body while trying to figure out why such a dark cloud seems to hang over her normally good-natured friends, and there's a lot that's thrown at her as she's coming into her role as a member of the Pyr. She makes a lot of mistakes, but she owns up to them and is never afraid to take action when it matters most. I like that every person in the huge cast of secondary characters has a distinct voice and identity, and that things don't always go the way that seasoned YA readers might expect with mysterious strangers or popular girls. The story is fairly complex for a short book, but it's very light-hearted in tone, which is a refreshing change from all those supernatural YA books that aren't well-thought out or that take themselves too seriously. One of the many humorous touches? ZoŽ, kickass girl dragon, is a vegetarian.
This book is apparently a spinoff of the author's adult PNR series, but it doesn't feel like something that's hastily cobbled together or that is at all lacking in explanation. The author does a terrific job of gradually revealing the rules and history of dragon behavior, as well as in giving enough time (but not too much time) to characters from the other series in a way that doesn't feel tiresome or forced. It's also great to see a book that shows teens with strong, loving relationships with the adults in their lives--but the crises are deftly handled and solved by the younger dragons themselves. I will say there's a lot of information to process, some of the "dark cloud" behaviors drag on for a little too long, and ZoŽ does occasionally get a little moony over her crush. But all the romance issues are resolved by the end of the book, and there is plenty of time spent on the family and friend relationships, mythology, plot, and personal development to balance the relationship stuff out.
I'd highly recommend Flying Blind to any fan of non-angsty paranormal/fantasy YA, especially to fans of series such as Hex Hall or The Darkest Powers. ZoŽ does a lot growing up in this zippy, action-packed story--and after having such a fun whirlwind of an adventure in her company, I can't to see where the next story takes her!