The Dragon King and I
(The Fairest Of Them All series, Book 1)
DESCRIPTION: Everyone knows the fairy tale: a damsel in distress, a terrible curse, and the knight in shining armor who saves her and carries her off to a Happily Ever After ending. For Alex, the curse is the knight. Since she was young, boys and men have fallen all over themselves to help her even when she didn't need or want it... even stealing her away to keep and protect. Now she lives as a recluse, with only her computer, her friend Rachel, and her cold mother's incessant phone calls (mostly concerning when she'll get married and breed grandchildren) connecting her to the outside world. But she can't go on like this much longer - especially as the curse is growing stronger, strong enough to pull strangers from the street to stalk outside her apartment door.
Strong enough to kill.
With the help of the fairy godmother she didn't know she had - a stripper named Seraphim - Alex sets off on a Quest to gather the magic ingredients needed to break the curse. But damsels can't go on Quests without help... which is where Sam comes in. Strong, handsome, and not quite human, Sam is the first man she's met who is immune to her charms - and the first man who tempts her wounded heart. But Sam has his own reasons for joining her on her Quest, and the secrets he hides may doom any notion of a happy ending.
REVIEW: At first, I was pulled in by the fast pace, the clever voice of the heroine, and the dark fairy tale feel - more like Grimm in the original than the sanitized Disney versions. Unfortunately, the promising sheen hid deeper flaws. Despite her snarky, take-no-guff voice, Alex is anything but a strong woman for most of the story, a helpless damsel in distress who can't do much on her own except get into trouble. The fact that she can think sarcastic pop culture references about her predicaments doesn't hide her general uselessness, save as an object of desire (and near-rape, on more than one occasion - at least one of which would've been averted with the classic knee to the groin, but even that much power is evidently beyond her. But, then, much of the "romance" in this book consists of her being helplessly ogled and pawed at.) Actually, most of her problems could've been cleared up earlier if she hadn't been deliberately kept in the dark about everything from magic to her fairy godmother's existence to the inhuman nature of her own bloodline - a sadly common yet irritating plot device. When Brooks starts dancing not just about this, but about the true nature of Sam, I started grinding my teeth: why name the book after a character, then go to such great lengths to hide the truth from the heroine? Is it really a spoiler if it's printed on the cover? The storyline itself moves decently, but loses the thread of logic during several bizarre sequences that make an acid trip look downright lucid. And the ending... well, the implications aren't exactly a healthy message on female empowerment. I also caught a couple continuity hiccups and several annoying proofreading errors, not to mention twists that, on reflection, defy the tale's own inner logic. While I liked some of the ideas Brooks presented, and her imagery could be compelling, overall I felt let down by the characters and the confusing plot.
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