I really wanted to love this book. Dragon shifters are usually a big win for me. The same goes for scruffy heroes with low self-esteem who learn their self-worth through the love of a good woman. Unfortunately, this one didn’t knock it out of the park the way I hoped it would. It wasn’t bad; I just had a lot of trouble connecting to it.
The story begins with our heroine, Kayla, traveling to Seattle to identify her dead sister’s body. When she arrives, she learns quickly that there is an entire world she knows nothing about. Her sister was intimately involved with a community of shapeshifters at war with one another. Just before her death, she gained possession of a powerful necklace that both sides want to get their hands on. And only Kayla can find it.
Enter our hero. Hart is a wolf shifter who was cast aside by his own people. Now he is a blood slave to their enemy, the Drekar (the dragons.) He has been tasked with securing the necklace to gain his freedom. Of course, he has no idea that he’ll fall head over heels for the woman who is supposed to be his mark.
The first half was really slow for me. It spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for the series. We learn about the ancient feud between the Drekar and the Kivati, a shapeshifter race that is supposed to protect humanity. We learn about the dastardly plan of Norgard, the Drekar leader. And we learn a lot about the mythologies of the key players. Stories of old gods, Norse legends, powerful prophecies. It was all interesting, but not all that engaging.
As for the romance… that didn’t really pull me in either. Kayla is basically too good to be true, a virgin nurse in her mid-20’s with a heart of gold. She wants to Do The Right Thing. Help people. She trusts Hart immediately, but for no discernible reason. There’s no explanation for her virginity, especially since she is attractive and gives up to Hart without much hesitation. As for Hart, his character works better for me. Though it’s not clear why Kayla affects him so much while no one else ever has, I am always more forgiving of shifters with mate bonds who fall in love fast. I like that he struggles in his decisions and that he ends up being such a good guy.
Things really picked up for me in the last third of the book. I enjoyed the sex and the bond between Hart and Kayla. I liked watching her come into her power. The secondary storyline with the Raven Lord and his young fiance got infinitely more interesting and the climax was really exciting. I think the series has potential. Maybe my inability to invest is a symptom of first-book-itis. Maybe there was just too much I had to learn and it interfered with my connection to the characters. I’m not sure. I’m glad I stuck it out, because it really did get better. And I want to read more, even if only to find out what happens with poor Lucia.
Hearts of Darknessby Kira BradyRelease Date: August 7, 2012Publisher: Zebra