Chasing Embers (Ben Garston #1)
by James Bennett.
What if all of our myths were true? When humanity started to really dominate the planet, the creatures of legend and folklore banded together to form the Pact. In order to escape humanity’s notice (and persecution), only one individual of each kind of creature would be allowed to remain, the others passing into a Sleep until the day a lasting peace might be achieved. The Remnants who stayed awake agreed to keep a low profile, not fight one another, and help enforce the Pact on any who broke it.
Red Ben Garston is the Remnant for dragonkind. He lives mostly in his human form, doing odd jobs for crooks, drinking Jack, and accumulating an ever-larger pile of treasure. Cities come and go, as do women, usually. His predictable life gets upturned when old foes normally kept at bay by the Pact show up, claiming it doesn’t protect him any more since there is another dragon awake. Except Ben doesn’t know how this is possible, as he didn’t wake any of his fellow dragons. Getting to the bottom of this mystery sets him on a quest with roots that go back millennia.
This sounds like my kind of book, right? Shape-shifting dragons are real. And I really wanted to love it. But it was just… ok. The biggest issue was that I couldn’t get into the character of Ben. I didn’t buy his love story. I didn’t buy that he was a creature several centuries old, because he certainly didn’t act like it. I didn’t really know anything about his personality and drives, and it made everything else surrounding him either unbelievable or not interesting. It didn’t help that a LARGE portion of his sections were just describing the scenery. There was a whole lot of telling rather than showing in the writing, and repetition of things already explained, which never works well for me.
The parts of the story that hover over the little girl, on the other hand, were very compelling. I almost wish that had been the main storyline and main character, rather than Ben. Once it got into the bit of ancient story coming into modern day, the book got a lot more interesting. I also quite liked the fae envoy that popped in every now and then- he had clear personality and draw.
As for the overall storyline, again, it was ok. Part mystery, part adventure, part magic. The premise was great, and I wish it had been carried off with more skill. Sadly, as is, I can only say it was baseline entertaining. The issues above meant it look me a long time to get through, even though it’s not a terribly long book. I do like the cover art, so there’s that, too.
If you like dragons and modern mystery, by all means don’t let me stop you from giving this a try. But I’ll be taking a pass on book 2 in this series.