Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: The Shadow of Tiamat, by Sean Poindexter

The Shadow of Tiamat (The Dragon Blood Chronicles Book 1), by Sean Poindexter
Crescent Moon Press, (December 5, 2011)

On a dark Ozark highway, two souls meet in tragedy and find their lives are connected to things bigger than them both. Megan Crunk, a social worker from Joplin, uncovers vampires preying on a small community. That same day, she meets Garrett, a fascinating stranger who is clearly more than he seems. But, as Meg slowly learns, so is she.

Garrett Terago is an ancient dragon. Until now, he’s been content with the secluded Ozark Mountains. Disguised as a human, but rarely paying them heed, until he meets Megan. He offers her love and protection from the vampires but can he keep her safe from his own kind? War looms between the dragons. Some long for a time lost to prehistory, when they were worshiped as gods, masters of the world. Somehow, Garrett is instrumental to their plans and Megan is in their way.

To start, I will say there are vampires in this book. They do wicked things. They walk in the sunlight. They don’t sparkle.

Tiamat opens with the main character, Megan, explaining to Garrett her reasons for thinking he was a vampire. He confirms that vampires do exist, but he’s not one. Then he confesses that he’s a dragon.

The second chapter rewinds a few weeks. Megan is a Joplin, Missouri, social worker, and there’s a recurrent head lice case in the nearby town of Scottish that she needs to follow up on. There she finds strange marks on the necks of the young girl and her mother’s live-in boyfriend. She takes a picture with her cel-phone. After seeing nothing to indicate additional problems in the house, she leaves. On her way out of town, she is pulled over by the chief of police, who expresses his disapproval with her unannounced visit to his town. She’s shaken when he lets her leave, attempts to pass a vehicle on corner, and plows into an oncoming motorcycle.

She is pulled out of the car by the rider, Garrett, who later offers her a $10,000 settlement for her injuries and the loss of her car. She invites him out to dinner. He reciprocates by flying her to Chicago for dinner. His attention is lavish, which she revels in, until her follow up on the Scottish case brings up information on vampires. She suspects one has been feeding on people in Scottish, but the information fits her new boyfriend as well.

After Garrett admits that he’s a dragon, and Megan doesn’t run away screaming, he takes her to special pair of doors in his massive mountain home. The doors open up into a cave and Garrett drops into the abyss, picking her up off the ledge after he shifts. Megan thinks the dragon is incredibly hot and the pair spends the next two days in bed.

Elsewhere in Tiamat’s world, vampires discuss the Meg problem. The chief of police in Scottish has been using his power of thrall to make humans forget things for years. He tries it twice with Meg, to no effect. Under normal circumstances, he would just kill her, but the other vampires make it clear to him that killing her is no longer an option. They, however, do not tell him why. Instead, he must publically discredit her before she can cause trouble.

And in an African desert, a number of dragons meet to talk business. An old dragon, MorrĂ­gu, refuses to take part in their plans to destroy mankind, and the others kill her. During the next few scenes, the very different personalities, and loyalties, of the dragons becomes clear…as does one’s need for Garrett Terago to be part of their plan, and the confusion others as to why.

Dragons are vain creatures, Garrett tells Meg. They are also prideful, and like snarling Rottweiler, very protective of things that are smaller and more fragile than they are. These three storylines collide with heavy consequences for Meg, her roommate Yvonne, and the little girl in Scottish.

Sean portrays Meg perfectly as a 20-something social worker with a frustrated sex life. She uses her feminine hygiene products twice, (which is twice more that I have included such a detail.) She bawls herself puffy and vomits at something utterly vile. She repeatedly compares her body to other women. When she’s injured, the effects last for days, even weeks. Meg is a grounded character that interacts with a tangible world, which helps balance out how amazing and unreal Garrett is.

Sex in this book goes on for pages. I decided to spend some time on the subject because some reviewers have found it excessive in terms of detail, length, and frequency. I found the language contemporary of erotica, a genre about which I am very picky. (I will warn you that Meg is very fond of her F-bombs.) I preferred his shorter scenes to the longer ones. However, the sex has an important purpose. First, as I mentioned previously, Meg’s sexually frustrated. Garrett appreciates beauty, but cannot create it. It’s a trait among dragons that leads them to hoards things that they find pretty. Meg is the newest beautiful thing he claims as his own; protecting her and making her happy become his reasons for living. The dragon can’t write poetry, but…he can curl her toes with a look, and he can climax on demand.

Second, the prolonged scene defines the nature of sex between these two characters in such a way that, afterward, Sean is able to maintain the passion between the two leads with the short scenes and simple mentions. So, even though I prefer shorter scenes, I can’t complain that much. Sean’s a multitasker; the scenes participate in character development and world building. For example, Garrett’s explanation to Meg about procreation and recreational sex among dragons is part of a getting-to-know-you-better conversation. But it also serves as a primer to behavior and interactions between other dragons in scenes all over the book that humans would find odd.

For readers who prefer violent battles to sex, Sean’s got your back, too. There’s spewing blood, breaking bones, ripping open of skulls to expose brain matter, and acid eating away flesh. When a guy hands the bartender an envelope of cash and tells him it’s for the mess, I expect someone to end up with jukebox pieces tangled in entrails, and I was not disappointed. All this together, plus an interesting supporting cast, stitched together with fluid prose, and The Shadow of Tiamat is one magnificent beast. The sequels are set up like little duckies at the carnival and I can’t wait to read them.

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