Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

TalonTalon by Julie Kagawa
Series: Talon #1
Published by: Harlequin Teen on October 28, 2014
Genre: Dragons, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 400
Source: BookExpo America
Book Details
Rating: ★★★

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Talon wasn’t what I imagined

Here’s what I THOUGHT Talon would be:

  • Dragon lore/history
  • Dragons blending in with society to take over government/military/organizations
  • Dragons in disguise assassinating humans
  • Dragon politics, hierarchy, and structure
  • Epic dragon battles and wars
  • Dragon training programs
  • Forbidden romance

Here’s what Talon actually was:

  • Largely about a teenage girl living a ‘normal’ teenage life (or pretending to)
  • Beaches, parties, the mall, boys
  • The girl happens to be able to turn into a dragon.. but that doesn’t mean she ever does
  • Very little information about the dragon history, politics, or hierarchy
  • Sort of a forbidden romance, but Ember doesn’t actually realize it’s forbidden so it doesn’t feel like a forbidden romance

As you can see, it’s not quite what I imagined.

Remove dragons and you get the exact same story

This was my number one problem with the book. If you removed the dragon aspect from Talon, you’d still have the exact same story. Why? Because although Ember and her fellow dragons are dragons, they can turn into humans and they spend the ENTIRE book in human form. Or, at least, I can count the number of times they shift into dragon form on one hand. There is a bit of dragon talk, but not much.

The bulk of the story is about Ember’s mission, which is to blend in with humans. This results in most of the book reading very much like a normal “teenage girl romance” book. We read a lot about Ember going to the beach, making friends, going to the mall with said friends, commenting on which guys are hot, etc. But every now and then we’d get a small snippet to remind us that she is a dragon (like “Surfing is almost as great as flying!” or “I wish I could shift and nom this asshole but I’m not allowed to.”).

I think I just so desperately wanted an epic dragon book and instead I got a semi-typical teenage girl book with a small dragon element. Like, “I’m playing the part of a teenage girl but I COULD shift into dragon form if I really wanted to. Remember that.” Meh.

The romance wasn’t bad

It wasn’t fabulous or earth shattering and I never got excited feels, but the romance wasn’t bad. There is sort of a love triangle, but not really. Ember and Garret have a slow-brewing romance, which was really nice. Julie Kagawa spent a lot of time slowly building it up, so I came to like it, even if I didn’t love it. They did have a few cute moments!

Then there’s a third leg: Riley, the rogue. However, he isn’t in the book a whole lot (compared to Garret) and I always got the impression that Riley liked Ember more than she liked him. So it wasn’t a full on, in your face, annoying love triangle. Also, Riley could get a bit rapey at times:

“We belong together, you know it as well as me. Say you’ll come with me. Tonight.”
“We just met.” Ember sounded very human then, like she was trying to convince herself. “I don’t even know you, really.”
“This is instinct, plain and simple. Human emotion has nothing to do with it. Stop fighting it. Stop fighting me.”

Yeah, Ember, stop fighting it. Just give in. You’ll enjoy it.

Overall, it was very ‘okay’

Talon wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I wanted FIREWORKS and FIREBREATHING and TOTAL EPICNESS! I was excited just at the idea of dragons in YA! FINALLY! But what I expected and hoped for wasn’t what I got. It’s really just a “teenage girl meets forbidden boy and falls in love while defying secret society” kind of book. You could strip out the dragon aspect entirely and still understand it.

I’m not necessarily giving up the series, but I’m not super excited to move onto the next one either.

The Verdict


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  1. My list of expectations from talon was the same as yours. So… *sigh* I am not sure I will read Talon if this is all it’s about. I read recently ya uf with dragon shifter heroine (Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon) and I feel like Talon would fail in comparison.

  2. Gah. I was hoping this one would be better – I haven’t ordered it yet because I’ve been waiting for the ARC reviews to come in. I really dislike fantasy where the fantastic elements are used merely as stage props – as you said: you remove the dragons and the story stays exactly the same. Great review, all in all!

    Kaja recently posted: Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  3. NOOOOOOO!! I’ve been so looking forward to this book! Okay, well, now that I know where my expectations should be set, I will probably still enjoy it. I don’t mind the typical YA “paranormal girl trying to blend with humans” storyline with a dragon twist. I just have to realize that the book isn’t going to be epic and go from there. Sigh…

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: 5 Star Review & Giveaway – Invisible by Dawn Metcalf
  4. Hmmmmmmmmm *puts on skeptical face* yeah, I don’t think this will be an Anya book for clear reasons ;-). I can read about teenage girl drama in lots of other books and already am not a huge fan of Kagawa’s writing voice, so if there aren’t actually many dragons……… Thanks for the warning!

  5. Well, that’s lame. I was definitely excited for this one because of the reasons in your first list of bullet points. Although now that I think about it, those totally describe Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I’d recommend that-don’t know if you’ve already read it.

    It’s a shame, I wanted epicness as well. Cue stereotypical YA romance scene of “We are meant to be together.” Riley sounds like a total creep. Typical teen romance book is exactly what I was thinking, too. Now I’m not sure about this one at all, it sounds a bit frustrating.

    Alise recently posted: The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
  6. Oh, that’s disappointing, I was looking for the same things you were. I think I’ll stick to the Seraphina books by Rachel Hartman for epic dragon shapeshifters. (Except there’s only one out so far, and the sequel is taking nearly two years. . . but it’s finally scheduled for spring.)

    Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard recently posted: Sunday Post – 10/12/14
  7. Bummer 🙁 I was right were you were with what I would expect from Talons. It still sounds okay, but I was really excited about the dragons! especially with that cover, I really thought the other stuff (you know, what took over the book) would have been secondary. Well, moving it down my list from must read to maybe sometime. Great review though!

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: The Next Breath | Book Review
  8. So much sadness!! I was afraid to read it after seeing that you didn’t like it, so I’m glad our opinions differed on this one! I do see your point, though – there weren’t very many dragon scenes. I still enjoyed the story despite that…I think I may be biased, since she’s my favorite author 😀

    1. I know, me too! I love dragons so much and was really excited to see more of them in YA.. then it just wasn’t what I was looking for at all. 🙁

      I hope maybe you’ll like it more than I did!

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