Each time I read a book by Marjorie Liu I don't know where the story is going and 'The Fire King' was no different, keeping me guessing the whole time. The author has a real skill with words, painting an interesting story with characters who are flawed but sympathetic.
In this story our heroine, Soria, is gradually revealed to us. We discover fairly early on that she has been living on her own and no longer working for Dirk & Steele, the Agency staffed by shapeshifters and other unusual people. We also find out that she has an amazing facility with languages and is able to speak any language on earth. She is also disabled, having only one arm - the other was lost in some unspecified way just over a year before the story begins.
Soria's talent for language is needed when Dirk & Steele learn of a strange shapeshifter whose language no-one can understand. When Soria is sent to talk to this person, Karr, she finds herself embroiled in an ancient feud that is still playing out today. She and Karr flee for their safety through Mongolia, but they may never be safe from those who seek to destroy Karr. As we learn about Soria's past and as she and Karr learn to trust each other, a significant history in the world of the shapeshifters is uncovered.
I enjoyed this book very much, never knowing what was going to happen next and finding the exotic setting and the variety of different people very interesting. There's a love story, of course, although in some ways that part of the book didn't feel complete; there were some loose ends at the close of the book which I imagine may be picked up in a future book. I've found Marjorie Liu's work occasionally misses the mark for me but this book was a good read and enjoyable in its novelty.
The Fire King is part of the Dirk & Steele romance series from American author Marjorie Liu. This was my first venture into this series, but I will admit at the start of this review that romantic novels are not my thing.
Dirk & Steele are a detective agency who employ 'gifted' or 'supernatural' people to undertake engagements. Soria is a 'universal translator' who is recovering from a horrific incident where she lost one of her arms. She is sent by her former boss and lover to China/Mongolia where an amazing discovery has been made in a recently unearthed tomb. Little do they know that this discovery will reawaken an ancient feud.
The discovery in the tomb turns out to be Karr, a tall, handsome man who is surprisingly alive, despite having been buried in the dark for over 3,000 years. Karr is a chimera, one of the forbidden offspring when two different shapeshifters breed. In Karr's case, he is half-lion and half-dragon, but now he has reawoken in a completely different world, where his kind are very few. He has to battle his basic urges and present a human face.
Ultimately, this is a romantic novel, but somehow it failed to engage me. I found the characters a bit dull, and even all the action and mythology failed to bring much excitement to the proceedings. It's definitely a book for a niche market, but judging by other positive reviews online, it does appear that Liu has her market.
When Soria is called out of retirement by Dirk and Steele's Roland, she quickly discovers why she was selected for this mission. Able to understand any language, Soria is the only person able to communicate with a new prisoner; a captive already proven capable of murderous rage when resurrected from a tomb he was imprisoned in for thousands of years.
As Soria unites with this prisoner Karr, escaping the clutches of human mercenaries and shape shifters intent on subduing the knowledge that something like Karr exists, even members of the normally trust worthy Dirk and Steele agency appear treacherous. Determined to help Karr, Soria is soon deeply embroiled in a millennia old war between shape shifters and Karr's kind, and falling in love along the way.
Soria's gift initially reminded me of the heroine's ability in Gena Showalter's "The Darkest Night" (a brilliant book by the way if you have yet to read it) but remained different enough that only a brief comparison was made. Soria is able to communicate in any language the person conversing with her happens to use, and makes a realistically vulnerable yet courageous heroine with the obvious disability she is still coming to terms with. I had made assumptions on how she suffered her injury, and was later proven completely wrong when MML chaptered this particularly moving event in the latter part of the book.
"The Fire King" is back to the early standards of "Tiger Eye" and "Shadow Touch" and is a thoroughly entertaining read. Like the aforementioned "Dirk and Steele" books, action, double crossing and romantic interludes run rampant throughout the story line. Previous characters crop up (when does Robert get a book?) whilst new ones intrigue. The romance between Soria and Karr proceeds at a fairly sedate pace yet becomes passionately hot in several places despite the increasing danger they face, whilst familiar faces become new enemies and other old friends prove ambivalent in their loyalties.